William Hague – 2001 Speech at Welsh Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by William Hague, the then Leader of the Conservative Party, in Cardiff on 14 May 2001.

It is always a pleasure for me to be back in Wales. Wales gave me some of the happiest years of my parliamentary career – although, of course, that’s not all I took away from my time here.

And it is a great privilege to back among so many friends in the Welsh Conservative Party. I know that at this Election Welsh Conservatives are thirsting for the fight and are fighting to win.

We can win because of the leadership of Nick Bourne and his brilliant team in the National Assembly, Nigel Evans at Westminster and Jonathan Evans speaking up for Wales in the European Parliament.

We can win because of the hard work and dedication of Conservative Councillors across Wales.

We can win because of all of you in the Welsh Conservative Party have never wavered in your commitment to the Conservative cause and your determination to see the end of this miserable Labour Government.

And that is what all of us are going to do – ensure that Tony Blair is given his marching orders from No 10, put Welsh Conservatives back in Westminster and the Conservative Party back into Government.

To come back to Wales is to find myself again among real people: not the politically correct commentators and radical lawyers Tony Blair has in mind when he talks about “the people”. But real men and women leading real lives.

People who are more interested in how much they are paying for petrol than in how much Cardiff council is paying its leader. People who are more concerned about their child’s GCSE results than about what method of election should be used in the Assembly. People who are more interested in whether their daughter can walk safely at night than whether she should serve in the front line.

People who understand that you can be proud to be Welsh as well as proud to be British, and value what the nations of the United Kingdom have achieved together. People who Labour sometimes dismiss as old-fashioned because they still believe in personal responsibility and patriotism and the importance of family.

People and communities all over Wales, who are starting to wonder whether any politicians are in touch with their concerns. People not unlike those like those I grew up with in the Rother Valley.

My classmates at Wath-on-Dearne Comprehensive had fathers who worked in mines and in steelworks and on farms. Like all parents, they wanted their children to have the best possible start in life. They wanted their families to be financially independent. They wanted a secure old age. And, without ever making a fuss about it, they loved their country.

Even back then, they were considered unfashionable. The last thing the Labour Party wanted was to give them independence. Much better to keep them in the industrial working class. Take away their freedom of choice. Tell them where to live. Tell them where to send their children to school. Make them join a trade union. Don’t give them their own pension. Make them depend on the state for every rise in life.

Our party changed that. We gave people the opportunity to take back control over their own lives. And they seized that opportunity with an enthusiasm that astonished the world.

Now the children I was at school with have families of their own. Their jobs are in computer firms, in high-street banks and call centres; they’re nurses and teachers and self-employed builders. They own their own homes, and they’re saving for pensions. And the girls in my class are struggling to balance the pressures of being a good mother and holding down a good job.

Those are the people who motivate me. People who are beginning to wonder whether ministers will ever listen to them. Our party is in it for them, and others like them throughout the United Kingdom.

Let me be honest: when I was here as Welsh Secretary, I made a number of friends who told me they were voting Labour. They had a variety of motives. Some of them actually believed all that rhetoric about a new Britain. But most of them simply felt that Labour deserved a fair crack of the whip.

They weren’t expecting miracles. They wanted decent schools for their children, safe streets and the opportunity to prosper by their own effort. It wasn’t much to ask. But, four years on, they’re feeling let down and conned.

They were promised lower class sizes; but they’ve seen class sizes rise in secondary schools throughout Wales.

They were promised a cut in NHS waiting lists. But, although in-patient waiting lists have fallen in Wales by 2,000, outpatient waiting lists have risen by a staggering 57,000.

They were told that taxes wouldn’t have to go up. But they’ve been taxed for marrying, taxed for driving, taxed for wanting to own their home, taxed for trying to put a little aside each month, taxed for growing old. They’ve seen council tax soar in Wales, with Band D houses now paying £215 more than when Labour took office.

And they’re wondering – as we are all wondering – where all the money is going. You’ve paid the tax, but you’re still waiting for your operation. You’ve paid the tax, but you’re still waiting for news of your train. You’ve paid the tax, but when was the last time you saw a police patrol on your street?

Those people I met as Welsh Secretary, who were so keen to tell me that they were voting Labour, expected a Government that would be tough on crime. But they’ve seen police numbers cut while prisoners are let out of jail early.

They believed that the priority would be “education, education, education”. But they’ve seen teachers bent double under paperwork and classroom discipline undermined. They’ve class sizes increase and children sent home because of staff shortages.

And now they’re wondering whether any politician will ever listen to them. They’re beginning to think that nothing will ever improve. That taxes will only ever go in one direction. That violent crime can only get worse. That there will always be failing schools. That no one will sort out the chaos on our roads and railways. Even that the drift into a European superstate is inevitable.

Well I say that none of these things is inevitable. I’m not promising to have all the solutions. No politician can. But things can improve. There is no excuse for giving up.

I won’t give up on the families, the savers, the pensioners whose taxes are rising faster than anywhere else in the world. It doesn’t have to be this way. The only reason that our taxes are shooting up is that the Government has chosen to raise them.

Of course decent public services need to be properly funded. People don’t object to paying tax when they can see that the revenue is being well used. But they do object when the money going into the NHS is not spent on patient care, but on preparing accounting systems for the euro. They object when up to £47 million is to be spent on a new Assembly building. They object to being taxed to recruit new armies of clerks and officials and regulators and licensors and inspectors and bureaucrats to the state apparatus.

And they’re right to object; you’re right to object. None of us minds paying for roads and schools and hospitals. But do you really feel the same about paying £4 million to take on more Labour spin-doctors? Do you really want to spend £1.4 billion in Wales on scrapping the pound?

The fact is that we have become used to a level of service from the state that we would never accept in any other walk of life. We put up with poor schools and cancelled operations and a bad return on our pension contributions because we feel we have no choice. But we shouldn’t have to.

If you wanted to book a holiday in Spain next month, and went to the travel agent, and were told that your holiday would have to be in two years time and had to be in South America, you’d use a different travel agent. If your local supermarket never stocked the goods you wanted, but charged you through the nose all the same, you’d want a refund.

Well I say you should have that refund. If the Government has enough of your money left over to spend millions of pounds on advertising to tell you what a good job it’s doing, then it’s taxing you too much.

Taxes in this country are beginning to spiral out of control. It isn’t selfish to think this: it’s responsible. People know that you can’t spend more than you have. And they know that, at a time when our competitors are cutting tax, Britain can’t afford to drive away investment.

I don’t believe that things have to be this way. Other countries are reducing taxes without cutting services. For twenty years Britain has been the lowest taxed country in Europe. That has brought us more jobs, more investment, more trade and more economic success than any other country in Europe. Yet Mr Blair is throwing all this away. He is increasing taxes and regulation while the rest of the industrialised world is going in the opposite direction. He is out of touch with the British people who know they are paying too much for too little – and he is out of tune with the needs of global competition.

Future jobs and growth will come to countries which cut taxes, not those which keep on increasing them. Mr Blair can try, Canute like, to turn back the tide of those who want and need lower taxes – but he will not succeed. Tax cuts are an idea whose time has come.

Michael Portillo and I have shown how we can cut taxes by £8 billion. We have shown how we can fulfil our plans to reduce taxes.

Last Friday I challenged Tony Blair to repeat the pledge he made at the last election when he said that he had “no plans to increase tax at all”.

That was four days ago. What have we heard from the Prime Minister? A deafening silence.

What is the problem? It can’t be that he’s lacked the opportunity to repeat his promise. He could have told one of the callers on GMTV that he would not increase their taxes – after all, they told him they were paying too much already. He could have told David Frost that would not increase taxes. He could have told John Humphrys this morning that he would not increase taxes.

When it comes to tax increases, the best policy Tony Blair has been able to come up with is to keep mum.

He hopes the British people won’t notice that he has turned Trappist.

Too bad, Tony: we’ve noticed alright.

We all know why he won’t answer.

We all know that his spending plans require another round of stealth taxes to pay for them – £10 billion according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

That’s equivalent to increasing the price of petrol to nearly £6 a gallon, or £1.30 a litre.

We know why he won’t answer, and what’s more he knows.

He won’t answer because he can’t answer.

No wonder Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are rowing.

The Prime Minister has boxed in his Chancellor. Gordon Brown needs to raise taxes, but Tony Blair won’t let him say so.

So the compromise they’ve reached? A conspiracy of silence.

If we were in America and Tony Blair was asked a straightforward question on tax, he’d plead the Fifth Amendment. You know the one – that’s the one that protects people from incriminating themselves.

Watch out for Labour. They’re going to try the same deceit at this election that they tried at the last.

They’re going to tell you that they won’t raise the rate of income tax.

But you know that is just a piece of spin. They said that last time and then increased income tax for millions of people by abolishing tax allowances and dragging more people into higher taxes.

I repeat my challenge to the Prime Minister. Be honest with the British people. Give it to them straight. Will you increase taxes if re-elected, yes or no?

The Conservative Party has worked out the most detailed plan ever produced by an Opposition, showing exactly how we can make savings in Government spending without taking a single penny from hospitals, or schools or the police or the Armed Forces.

It’s not going to cure everything. But it will allow us to deliver tax cuts for small businesses and married couples and savers and pensioners and people with children.

And it will allow us, in our first year in office, to reduce the cost of petrol by 27p a gallon and that will be welcomed by the elderly, disabled people and millions of others for whom the car is not a luxury but a necessity.

People are not expecting the Earth. Just for the chance to live secure lives without having to rely on the state. It isn’t much to ask.

Pensioners want the dignity of independence in their old age. They’ve paid tax throughout their lives. They shouldn’t have to go on paying in retirement. That’s why the next Conservative Government will raise the state pension and, at the same time, raise pensioners’ tax allowances by £7.50 a week, which would take a million pensioners out of tax altogether.

And for those at the other end of their careers, those just starting out in the work place, I say: you should have the opportunity to build up your own pension fund without having to rely on the state.

People want to do the right thing: to put aside a little each month to provide for their retirement, or for their children or grandchildren. They’ve already been taxed for earning the money; they shouldn’t be taxed again for wanting to save it. The success of our economy depends on encouraging investment. That’s why the next Conservative Government will abolish taxes on savings and dividends.

And there’s no excuse for giving up on marriage. Married people provide stable homes for children. They should be rewarded, not penalised. That’s why the next Conservative Government will introduce a transferable allowance for married couples worth up to £1,000. And we will offer special help and training to women who take time out to look after their children, but who want to return to work when their children are older. Let’s not be afraid to say it: we believe in marriage.

There’s no excuse for giving up on our roads. John Prescott seems to think that driving is a vice. But just because he treats his two Jags as a luxury, that doesn’t mean that the rest of us can do the same. For women who don’t want to walk home from the station after dark, or for families trying to manoeuvre small children to school and back, or for small businesses needing to shift their goods, or for people who live in rural Wales, driving is a necessity.

Mr Prescott may regard petrol duty as an ethical tax. But I don’t see anything ethical about a tax on women and children and small businesses and the countryside. That’s why the next Conservative Government will cut fuel tax by 6p a litre, that’s 27 pence a gallon.

And we need to do it now. Because in Brussels today they’ve been discussing a plan to harmonise fuel prices across Europe. Stephen Byers admitted it this morning. And don’t think for a moment they’re planning to cut petrol tax in Britain to the European average. It’s a one way street. They want to lock in higher petrol taxes here and prevent them from ever being cut again. That’s why Britain’s drivers are saying to Labour and to Brussels at this election: hands off our fuel.

And there’s no excuse for giving up on the crime problem. It’s just not true to say that rising crime is inevitable. During the early 1990s, crime rates started to fall. But now we’ve seen record rises in violent crime, especially in the kinds of offence that tend to ruin lives: assaults, rapes, muggings.

When you spend too long looking at crime figures, it’s easy to lose sight of what each one of those recorded offences means in terms of human misery.

When a pensioner has her handbag snatched by a lout on a bike, it may not register as a major offence. But, for that pensioner, it can be a life-changing experience. She may never again feel comfortable walking along the street where it happened. She may never again feel safe outside her home.

When a family come back from their holiday and find that their home has been broken into and ransacked, the statistics simply notch up one more burglary among the thousands that take place every month. But that family’s home has been soiled and violated: it will never feel quite the same again.

There is nothing inevitable about this crime wave. It hasn’t just happened spontaneously. It has happened because police numbers have been cut, and because those officers who remain in the force feel blamed and demoralised. And it has happened because nearly 35,000 serious criminals have been released early. Police taken off the streets, criminals turned on the streets.

Think, for a moment, about what this means. Serious criminals – muggers, burglars, sex offenders, even attempted murderers – have been allowed home early. Over a thousand of these have breached their curfew conditions, and some have disappeared entirely. Many more have committed crimes while on special early release: more muggings and burglaries, more assaults on police officers, more rapes.

This did not need to happen. And it doesn’t need to happen. Mistaken policies can be dropped. It is possible to begin to put things right.

The next Conservative Government will stop early release. We will introduce tougher sentences for violent and sex offenders, tougher sentences for drug pushers, tougher sentences for burglars. And we will make prisoners serve their full sentences.

And, while they are in custody, we will make prisoners do a full working day: not artificial schemes, but paid employment. And we will see to it that some of their wages go to compensate the victims.

And the next Conservative Government will reverse Labour’s cuts in police numbers. It’s not just a question of attracting young men and women to serve in the police force. It’s a question of keeping them there. Police recruits join up because they want to serve their communities. They want to be out on patrol, not handcuffed to their desks. And they want to know that, if they stop and search a suspect, his word will not automatically be taken over theirs.

There is no excuse for giving up on crime. With resolve and a little imagination, with proper sentencing and with visible policing, it really is possible to turn things around. It has happened elsewhere. It happened in New York, where a properly motivated and resourced police force transformed what used to be one of the most violent cities in the world. It could happen here.

And I refuse to give up on the Welsh countryside. Labour ministers seem to have no grasp of how serious things have become in Wales. It’s not just hill-farms that are suffering. Livestock and dairy farmers in Wales have seen their income fall by 25 per cent in four years. Seventy-three farming jobs are lost each week in Wales, as families who have managed the land for generations are being forced to sell up. When I say that we are witnessing the asphyxiation of rural Wales, I am not choosing my words lightly.

The countryside doesn’t just need an injection of cash. It needs a vibrant and successful economy.

Coming on top of all the other problems, Foot and Mouth has been a disaster for the Welsh countryside. For so many farmers years of hard work has been destroyed in a matter of weeks. Rural businesses have seen their turnover collapse. And there have been animal welfare problems of a kind we never expected to see in Britain.

The priority of the next Conservative Government must be to help the countryside recover. So immediately we take office, and working with the National Assembly at every stage, we will implement our Strategy for Recovery, containing steps to stamp out Foot and Mouth once and for all, to help our struggling tourism industry and other rural businesses and firm action to prevent this terrible disease entering Britain again.

The next Conservative Government won’t just offer the Welsh countryside a one-off transfusion. We will aim to restore its long-term health. Our proposals come as a package: cuts in the business rate for rural shops, pubs and garages; support for village post offices; an end to Labour’s housing targets; more use of brownfield land for development; 6p a litre off the price of petrol; help for village schools; an extension of rural homeownership.

In the long term, if agriculture is to remain a viable industry, we will have to change the entire basis of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. If I sat down today and tried to come up with the most expensive, least efficient, most Byzantine farming system I could, I doubt I’d get close to the CAP. Every family in the United Kingdom pays three times over for the CAP: first, to support the production of food for which there is no market; then to pay for its storage, and occasionally its destruction; and then all over again as consumers to prop up artificially high prices.

So with all this money sloshing around, you’d expect some of it to be going to our farmers. But, because Britain is a food importing country with relatively a relatively efficient agricultural sector, we do very badly out of the subsidy system. In other words, our taxpayers and consumers are coughing up, not to support British farmers, but to subsidise their Continental competitors!

This cannot go on. Our farmers are among the most dedicated and innovative in the world. On a level playing field, they’d acquit themselves against all comers. But they cannot compete properly as long as they are confined by the current Common Agricultural Policy.

The next Conservative Government will re-negotiate the Common Agricultural Policy so that many decisions currently taken at EU level would be taken by the governments of individual member states. The voice of the Welsh Secretary will be vital in speaking up for the interests of Welsh agriculture.

Above all, there is no excuse for giving up on our schools. I was lucky as a boy: I went to a first-rate comprehensive. But there were other children in the neighbourhood who were less fortunate than I was: who went to schools where they were never stretched, where their ambition was never kindled, where their potential was slowly poured into the sand.

No parents should be forced to send their child to a failing school simply because of where they live. It was wrong then and it is unacceptable today. In a society as wealthy as ours, there should be no such thing as a sink school.

Tony Blair, with his customary attention to detail, promised to give us “education, education, education”. Well, I want to be a little more specific than that with my own aims. I want discipline, standards, choice.

Schools should be answerable to parents, not to politicians. That’s why the next Conservative Government will set our schools free: free to set their own admissions policies, free to decide their own rules, free to spend their own budgets. If our children are to realise their potential, we need to release the energy and enterprise of those who work in education. It can be done.

I’m not going to promise to set everything to rights. But I can promise that the next Conservative Government will clear its desks to focus on improving our education system. And I can promise that we will push more resources out to our schools.

We will set Welsh schools free from red tape and bureaucracy and allow the National Assembly to provide funding directly to schools. The Assembly will then work with local authorities to improve school standards across Wales.

We have calculated that if the National Assembly paid money direct to the schools themselves rather than through the LEAs, we can place an extra £540 a year at the disposal of heads and governors.

We recognise that LEAs provide additional functions other than funding. These will still be carried out by individual Local Authorities, but it will be for the National Assembly, as the body with responsibility for local government, to oversee these functions.

But under Conservative plans head teachers will be able to set their own priorities. Just think of how far even a part of that extra £540 could go when it comes to upgrading school facilities, or taking on extra staff, or offering children more opportunities for sport or drama or music.

But none of these things is possible if we give up on our national independence; if we give up on Britain. I have faith in this country and its people. We can prosper as a self-governing nation.

People often say to me: “Yes, I want to keep the pound. But it’s all inevitable isn’t it? We’re going to be dragged into the euro one way or another.”

No, it’s not inevitable. It’s up to you. You can vote Lib-Lab or Plaid, and see the pound abolished within two years. Or you can vote Conservative to keep the pound.

Labour may not have confidence in this country. They may not believe that Britain is strong enough to survive on its own. But I do. We’re the fourth largest economy in the world. We’re the fourth military power on Earth. We’re one of five members of the UN Security Council, one of the Group of Seven industrialised nations, we have unparalleled links with the United States, the Commonwealth and the rest of the English-speaking world. How much bigger do we have to be before we’re able to run our own affairs in our own interests?

Don’t let anyone tell you that the euro is inevitable.

And don’t let anyone tell you that believing in an independent Britain is anti-European or xenophobic. We are a European country. But we can never be only a European country. We are tied by our history and our geography to other continents.

Welsh people through the ages have settled across the seas. To this day, people throughout the United Kingdom have friends and relatives in North America, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand and the Indian sub-continent. It’s not we who are the isolationists; it’s those who want to lock our country into a European bloc.

And don’t let anyone tell you that we’re going to be dragged into a European Superstate.

The Conservative Party wants to be in Europe, not run by Europe. We want the EU to do its job, and to do it well. But there are plenty of policies that could and should be returned to the nation-states.

Look at the record of the Common Agricultural Policy, which has pushed up prices and taxes across Europe while leaving Welsh hill farms and the Welsh countryside devastated. Look at the pettifogging rules that have choked so many of our small businesses.

Labour’s policy is to take the EU institutions that have done all this, and put them in charge of our money, of our defence policy, even of our criminal justice.

Our policy is that Brussels should do less and do it better. That’s why the next Conservative Government will pass a Reserved Powers Act, to prevent EU law from overriding the will of Parliament in areas which Parliament never intended to transfer to the EU. We want our children and grandchildren to inherit the same freedoms that we inherited from our parents.

I trust our people. I am proud of this country: comfortable with its past and confident about its future. I don’t believe that we have to go along with every new Brussels initiative simply because others are doing so.

So let me make one thing clear today. If other members of the European Union want to go ahead with political integration, if they want to merge themselves into a larger union, a Conservative Britain will not be part of it. We shall cheer them from the sidelines: they will always be able to rely on our open markets, on our diplomatic support, on our military alliance.
But we will never compromise our democracy; we will never bargain with our independence.

And so to everybody who shrugs in despair at politics, who thinks that nothing can be done about higher tax and more crime and European federalism and the asylum crisis, I say: something can be done. We don’t promise miracles. But we can make a start.

We are ready to govern for all the people. For people in the countryside, who have almost given up on ministers ever understanding them. For people in our inner cities, struggling to bring up families on crime-ridden estates with failing schools. For people in towns and suburbs in Wales, and all over Britain, who are watching their green spaces disappear inexorably under concrete.

We will govern for taxpayers wanting to see some return on their taxes. For nurses and teachers and policemen who want to get on with their jobs, not be snowed under with paperwork. For people who believe that the countries of the United Kingdom have achieved more together than they would separately, and who refuse to feel ashamed about our history. We are in it for all the people.

To parents who want the best for their children, who believe that teachers who run disciplined classrooms should get our support, not end up in court: we’re in it for you.

To pensioners who have already done their bit, and who don’t understand why they are still being taxed: we’re in it for you.

To people who live with the daily reality of crime, who feel that their town centres are closed to them on a Friday night and who can’t remember when they last saw a policeman on their street: we’re in it for you.

To parents with young families, struggling to make their budgets stretch that little bit further: we’re in it for you.

To all the small businesses and self-employed people who are wasting more time than they can afford to on complying with regulations: we’re in it for you.

To people who work hard, save hard and try to be independent of the state: we’re in it for you.

And to everyone who believes in an independent Britain: we’re in it for you. Come with us, and we will give you back your country.

Charles Kennedy – 2001 Speech to the Financial Markets Association

charleskennedy

Below is the text of the speech made by Charles Kennedy, the then Leader of the Liberal Democrats, in London on 23 January 2001.

Ladies and Gentlemen

I am delighted to be here this evening.

I’d like to begin by thanking Hugh Macdonald and Martin Ely

for inviting me to meet you all.

The former Conservative Chancellor

Nigel Lawson once famously called ACI UK

“a bunch of City scribblers”.

Diplomacy was never really his strong point.

I can assure you that I have a higher opinion of your organisation

and look forward to talking to many of you later to hear your views.

London remains the largest financial centre in the world

accounting for almost one third of global currency business.

As such issues that affect that City and those who work in it

are of great importance to politicians of all parties

and naturally to government, let me be clear from the outset.

I want the City of London and the UK financial services industry

to be the global leader. Government should do all that it can

to enable you to do this.

At home that means competitive taxes, consistent policy, and sensible regulation.

In Europe – completing the Single Market,

winning for the City of London

and getting the economy right for Euro entry.

In the world, opening up the market for financial services.

Where regulators need to be tough they should be,

with the full support of politicians.

Tough because reputation and confidence

The most important ingredient for a healthy economy,

I believe, is financial stability.

That is why the Liberal Democrats entered the last election campaign

advocating independence for the Bank of England.

We were delighted that the Government chose to adopt our policy

which has proved to be very successful.

No decision has done more to end boom and bust economics.

However, the other chief ingredient in economic stability is

exchange rate stability.

On this, the Government has failed.

Prolonged over-valuation of sterling

has done a great deal of harm

to certain sectors of the UK economy.

Which is why the Liberal Democrats

advocate membership of a successful Single Currency

at an appropriate exchange rate

subject to the consent of the British people.

Last May, my party set up a commission,

chaired by Chris Huhne MEP,

whose members included such people as

Willem Buiter of the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee,

and a variety of other distinguished

City practitioners and economists,

to advise on those measures Britain needs to take

in order to join the Euro-zone successfully.

Their report was published in September.

Yet, almost five months later the Government

still has not taken a lead on this issue.

My Party welcomed the step forward

that was taken in financial regulation

in the City in the last few years.

We have a high personal regard for Howard Davies

and believe the concept of the FSA is the right one.

Whilst regulation must never be over-bearing

we have always believed that the FSA

must take full account of the need

for proper consumer protection

in the job that they do.

In this respect,

regulators need

to be prepared, on occasion, to be tough to ensure that

And that means there should be no hiding place

for those who have mis-sold pensions,

failed to deliver on endowment mortgages

or closed rural bank branches.

Economic efficiency and social justice can, and must,

go hand in hand.

Before moving on to the main theme of my speech

I want to take a moment to

make some points on two specific regulatory issues

of which you will no doubt be aware

and which are of great importance to financial service institutions

as well as to politicians both as public policy makers

and as representatives of our constituents’ interests.

The first is the recent AXA deal on disposing

of its ‘orphan assets’,

And the second is the plight of Equitable Life

whose many policyholders

may suffer some heavy losses

as a result of the company’s difficulties.

Both of these issues are linked,

in my mind,

by the role of the FSA in regulating each company.

And they have implications

for the job that the FSA is doing more widely.

The recent controversy over the AXA deal on ‘orphan assets’

and particularly the role of the FSA

in giving it the green light to that deal

is a source of great concern to me and has been much commented on.

We have great sympathy with the Consumer Association

in the action that they took on behalf of consumers.

Government ministers

seemed to indicate a few years ago

that ‘orphan assets’ belonged to policyholders

in a ratio of 9 to 1.

Yet now, the AXA case would now seem to imply

that this principle has been undermined.

Previously I had understood

that ‘orphan assets’ were to be allocated

according to the ‘90% rule’

whereby nine tenths of the value of those assets

is given over to policyholders.

In the AXA case, the figure is much closer to a mere one-third.

This case is particularly important not only because it affects

the 660,000 with-profits policy holders

who are disputing the £1.68 billion worth of AXA ‘orphan assets’

but also because it has implications for those

with a potential claim on the £20 – 30 billion worth

of unallocated ‘orphan assets’ in other insurance companies.

Many thousands of people

throughout the country could be affected.

How to best dispose of ‘orphan assets’

is a source of some debate I acknowledge,

but I am not at all convinced that the regulator should have agreed

to in effect transfer well- over £1 billion

from AXA policyholders to AXA shareholders.

And I’m not at all convinced that the regulator should have agreed

to a ballot where AXA policyholders

were asked to agree a deal on the basis of

a ‘take it or leave it’ cash offer.

in which only those who voted in favour of that deal

would actually be entitled to the cash.

This is rather like Gordon Brown giving pension increases

only to those pensioners who voted Labour.

Ballots – whether of AXA policyholders, trade unionists or Florida electors – must not be open to question.but at first sight the outcome of the AXA case would seem

to contradict the Government’s intentions.

Moreover, the FSA’s stance throws doubt

on its willingness to defend the consumer interest.

This is not the only issue

in which the role of the FSA has been controversial.

The Equitable Life case is a cause of enormous concern too.

I appreciate that Equitable Life is not insolvent,

but it is in severe financial difficulties.

Many policyholders could suffer losses,

or returns below reasonable expectations.

There has clearly been a serious failure by management,

by the FSA, and quite possibly by the DTI at an earlier stage

which has allowed the situation to develop

into the crisis we see now.

Last year, Vincent Cable MP,

the Liberal Democrat Shadow Trade and Industry Secretary,

called on the Chancellor of the Exchequer

to instigate an immediate independent assessment

into possible regulatory failure by the FSA in this case

which could lead to compensation for any investors

who have been misled.

he Government has acknowledged

that the FSA has a case to answer

but responded to this by announcing

that the FSA itself would be charged with investigating

its own performance as regulator.

This is simply not good enough.

In both the AXA ‘orphan assets’ decision,

and the Equitable Life case,

the performance of the FSA as regulator

would seem to have been inadequate at best.

Many people would call it incompetent

The FSA was set up

to be champion of the consumers interests –

it should be just that.

London cannot afford a ‘paper tiger’.

It is time for the Government to

force the FSA to be more rigorous

and to take its share of responsibility

for any mistakes that have been made.

Investors and the wider public

must have confidence that it is doing its job on their behalf.

The City of London must not be over-regulated,

but must be regulated in a way also needs to must be regulated

in a proper way

so that protects and enhances London’s

excellent reputation

around the globe is maintained.

The reputation of politicians on the other hand

is probably beyond redemption.

You may be surprised to hear someone like me say that,

but I am genuinely concerned that

the public’s perception of politics

and the political class

is at an all time low.

You may have seen some press speculation recently

about the probable date of the next General Election.

Indeed, the media have

reported that an unofficial election campaign

by the three main parties is already underway.

Given that the likely date of the General Election

is the 3rd of May

I am truly depressed that the electoral “Phoney War”

seems to have begun

almost four months before anyone

is likely to walk into a polling booth.

And I am particularly angry because

this is exactly the kind of behaviour

that is putting more and more people off voting

and off participating in the electoral process.

At the last round of local elections in May 2000

voter turn-out in some parts of the country

was as low as ten per cent.

That is an horrendous figure to anyone

who cares about inclusive politics.

I am deeply, deeply worried by it.

And the other two parties are already engaging

in the usual pre-election Dutch auction

over tax and spending –

pretending that you can magically tax people

less and less

and yet spend more and more

on the things that people care about.

The public know that you don’t get

something for nothing.

This kind of debate

with both other parties striving

to reach the lowest common denominator

does a great deal to turn the public off politics

and create cynicism about the promises of politicians.

I fully intend that the Liberal Democrats will enter

into the forthcoming election battle

as the only major political party

who are prepared to be honest with people

about the cost of investing properly

in our public services:

in schools, in hospitals, in pensions and in the police.

This debate should not be characterised simply as “tax and spend”.

All Governments raise taxes

in order to spend the revenue they bring.

I want the debate to focus on

what we as a nation see as our priorities

for investing in public services

based on how we as a nation are prepared to fund them.

I believe that the British people

do want to see investment in public services in this country.

A country in which the NHS

provides decent care for all, free at the point of delivery.

A country in which schools are properly funded

and teachers properly valued.

A country in which older people share fairly in increasing prosperity.

And a country in which all in society feel free from the fear of crime.

And that investment is funded by all of us

through the tax system.

That is why I will enter the forthcoming election

promising honesty in taxation.

Telling people exactly how we would invest their money

in the services which they use,

and from which they may benefit.

In an age of political cynicism

one of the ways that these and many other policies

could best be discussed

in front of as wide an audience as possible

would have been through a debate

between the three main UK party leaders

during the election campaign itself.

As you may know, the BBC and ITV

approached Tony Blair, William Hague and myself

with a set of non-negotiable proposals

for two debates to take place between us during the

final two weeks of the General Election campaign.

I have long believed that in a television age such debates

would be an important addition to the democratic process

allowing the public to see the Party Leaders debating

outside of the juvenile environment of Prime Minister’s Question Time.

Because of this I have agreed to the broadcasters’ proposals for a debate.

William Hague has agreed also.

Unfortunately, as you may have seen in the papers,

Tony Blair has refused to take part,

arguing that the British people are not electing a President

but rather individual MPs.

This is true, and I do not want British electoral campaigns

or British politics

to become presidential in nature.

Well, I accept it is always good to see a sinner repenting.

But only a Labour spin doctor could argue

that the farce of Prime Ministers Questions

is a substitute for a serious leaders’ debate.

Mind you self-evidently debates are dangerous.

So dangerous that they have had them in the United States since 1960.

Canada since 1962.

Germany since 1969.

Holland since 1977.

Australia and New Zealand since 1984.

And South Africa since 1994.

Dangerous?

No, Tony it’s called democracy.

But I do believe that Leader’s debates

would have done a great deal to re-engage

and hopefully re-enthuse the public

ahead of election day.

And now that these debates will not take place

I think Tony Blair must be prepared

to accept much of the blame if

voter turn-out is down again at this election.

By shying-away from debating with William Hague and myself

he is doing the country and the electoral process

a great disservice.

Nevertheless, it would be unfortunate if

arguments over the Leader’s debates

to detract from the issues that will be

crucial in the forthcoming election campaign.

Because there are real reasons

why the next General Election

should concentrate on issues of greater importance

to the British people

and to the future direction of our country.

The Liberal Democrats will enter that election promising

further targeted investment in our public services.

Honesty and openness in taxation.

More decentralisation away from Westminster and Whitehall

to the nations and regions of Britain.

A sensible relationship with our European partners

with whom we, as a nation, do so much of our trade –

not least in the financial services sector.

For the Liberal Democrats 2000 was a very successful year.

In May we recorded 28% of the vote in the local elections,

the highest share of the vote

we have ever received in a national election

which enabled us to capture

previous Labour strongholds like Oldham.

And on the same night we captured

what had previously been the safe Tory parliamentary seat of Romsey

in a Westminster by-election.

I want to translate those results

into further success at the polls this year.

There is every chance for my party to do so.

Liberal Democrats are already in national government

in Scotland and Wales.

We are already in local government in town halls

up and down the United Kingdom.

We will be fighting this election hard.

I intend for my Party to take more votes and more seats

from both Labour and the Conservatives.

No-one should expect us to do any other.

Charles Kennedy – 2001 Speech to the Social Market Foundation

charleskennedy

Below is the text of the speech made by Charles Kennedy, the then Leader of the Liberal Democrats, on 29 January 2001.

Liberty.

What’s it’s all about?

Does it matter?

Why, above all, is a party leader here this evening,

talking about an abstract political concept,

just three or four months before an election.

That could be a risky strategy,

when all the pollsters and pundits tell us,

that people are bored by politics,

and that the only chance we have of getting any message across,

is to talk about schools, hospitals and pensions,

in only the most basic terms.

Well, one of the arguments I shall make this evening,

is that schools, hospitals and pensions are issues of liberty,

and that progressive politicians have all too often lost sight of that basic case.

More of that later

But I want to start off focusing,

on one of the traditional liberty issues:

civil liberties.

When I look at the current government,

and its record on civil liberties,

I find it very difficult to attach the label progresssive to it.

Just look at Labour’s record.

Preventive detention of people with ‘severe personality disorders’.

Snooping on private e-mails.

Removing benefits from offenders,

if they don’t meet all the requirements of community service.

Mandatory drug testing of those arrested.

Denying bail to drug addicts.

Restricting the right to trial by jury.

Failing to tackle drugs afresh.

Labour’s priorities veer too much towards punitive populism.

Neither treating the causes of crime,

nor safeguarding the rights of the individual.

There is, I sometimes think, a judgement made by Labour politicians,

that they have to out-Tory the Tories on crime.

That somehow, knee-jerk reactions are the best.

policies like ending jury trials.

Or blanket curfews for kids.

That’s just a hammer to crack a nut,

And the kind of policy you would expect,

from a Conservative Home Secretary,

not an allegedly progressive one.

It’s not just the policies of the government that worry me.

It’s also the tone.

The current Home Secretary likes to lash out

at so-called ‘woolly Hampstead liberals’,

joining William Hague’s refrain

that liberals are the cause of most of Britain’s ills.

I don’t just blame Jack Straw.

I do think that Labour’s obsession with spin,

is partly to blame.

On that subject, I like the quote from the 1997 election.

It came from a Labour Party press officer.

” Later today Tony Blair will be spontaneous. Tomorrow he will be passionate.”

But the problem doesn’t just lie in Number Ten.

The New Statesman said a while back,

in an interview with David Blunkett,

that if he became Home Secretary,

he’d make Jack Straw look like a woolly liberal.

Well, if Jack Straw is a liberal,

then I’m Ann Widdecombe.

There are too many signs of the centralising, bossy and collectivist tendency

that was so much at the heart of Old Labour.

Unfortunately, it seems also be part of New Labour.

Little change there,

as far as I can see

in the basic culture of the party.

It’s a travesty of what this Labour government could have been.

A concern for liberty should not be alien to the Labour Party.

It was deeply rooted in the ethical socialism of the early part of the last century.

The early speeches of Ramsay MacDonald spoke vividly of individual freedom.

And Roy Jenkins’ record as a liberalising Home Secretary,

was an impressive one.

But the differences now,

embodied in the figures of ministers like Jack Straw,

are all too apparent.

And that’s why all this recent talk,

of electoral pacts between ourselves and Labour,

is so preposterous.

For four reasons.

First, we are fighting to defend seats against Labour

and to win some more from them.

In my own seat, Labour was in second place in 1997,

so I need no lesson in how to win against Labour.

Second, I don’t just want to win more seats at this election.

Wherever we fight, I want to win more votes for the Liberal Democrats,

so that we can get into second place where we are third,

and so that in the election after next, we can win even more seats.

Third, across the country,

we will be fighting Labour hard on civil liberties.

Highlighting the government’s illiberal policies on asylum and law and order.

It is our territory, and we are deeply disappointed with Labour’s record.

And finally,

I don’t believe that party leaders should dictate to the voters,

by restricting their choice at election time.

Only Labour, with its centralising approach,

could believe that is the right way,

or even that it’s possible.

But it’s not the Liberal Democrat way.

And it’s a basic issue of political liberty

that I think all progressives should feel strongly about.

So at this election,

there will be no pacts, no deals,

where the Liberal Democrats and Labour are concerned.

Wherever we stand,

and that will be every seat in England, Scotland and Wales,

our candidates will be fighting for every single vote.

Anything else would be betraying the cause we believe in,

and which Labour does not.

I’ve talked about civil liberties.

And I want to talk now about wider issues of liberty.

The ones that aren’t always seen as liberty issues.

Liberty is of course about government not telling you how to live your life.

But it should also mean social justice.

Nearly a hundred years ago,

The Liberal philosopher Hobhouse said,

‘the struggle for liberty … is the struggle for equality’.

He was right.

If you live in a high rise flat,

bringing up a child on your own,

or struggling on a pension,

liberty isn’t about government making you buy healthcare or education.

If you live in those conditions, liberty is about social justice.

Employment.

Decent public services.

Decent welfare support when times are hard.

A first class education system.

Whatever your income, whatever your background.

That means a key role for politics,

and a role for government.

And it is a great contrast to the Hague approach.

The Conservatives tend to equate liberty with rampant market forces.

They think that government,

especially at a European level,

is public enemy number one.

But I take the view

that liberty does not mean ‘minimum government’ for the sake of it.

It seems to me preposterous to assert that people are more free,

when government does less.

If government did nothing to provide decent health and education services,

then many people in Britain would be manifestly less free,

because they would not be able to provide these services for themselves.

For me, social justice,

protected and enhanced by government,

equals more liberty.

If progressives recognised this openly,

that would represent a major shift in progressive thought.

Traditionally, we have been hung up on the conflicts between liberty and equality,

seeing them as somehow contradictory.

But I don’t think we should see them as contradictory.

Instead, we should recognise them to be two sides of the same coin.

For guidance on how to do that, we can turn to Isaiah Berlin.

Isaiah Berlin was the first person to argue that there were actually two sorts of liberty.

Negative liberty and positive liberty.

Negative liberty, he said,

means wanting to curb authority,

leaving individuals alone to do what they want,

providing that their actions do not restrict the freedom of others.

Positive liberty was different.

It meant using political power to emancipate.

It meant groups, or the state, judging what was best for individuals.

Berlin did not oppose positive liberty entirely.

In fact, as Michael Ignatieff’s biography points out,

Berlin was, in politics, a New Deal liberal.

He was neither a conservative,

nor a laissez-faire individualist.

He accepted that poverty and ignorance were not the ideal conditions for liberty.

But Berlin did urge us to recognise the contradictions between liberties.

The conflict between negative liberty and positive liberty.

He would want us to recognise

that although we may tax somebody to create opportunities,

we may still be restricting the liberty of the taxed.

That is the heart of the conflict between positive and negative liberty.

I think this is a conflict that can help us.

Although not quite in the way Isaiah Berlin would have liked.

What we have to accept,

is that although there are conflicts between negative and positive liberty,

they are still both forms of liberty.

Both are about promoting individual freedom,

giving everybody the chance to make the most of their life.

So I think that it is now time to recast the liberty-equality debate,

into a simple liberty-liberty debate.

We have to recognise that we are not,

when we speak of investment in education,

talking about creating equality.

We are talking about creating liberty.

Yes, it is positive liberty, but it is liberty nevertheless,

and that can, I think, make it easier to pursue an agenda

which incorporates both traditional liberty issues,

and traditional equality issues.

That is where New Labour has, I believe, failed.

Although we hear a lot less about the Third Way than we used to,

it still lies at the heart of the Labour approach.

The logic goes something like this:

do something left-wing one day, and right-wing another,

or talk right and act left.

and all will be fine

You will build a Big Tent,

that everyone can enter.

But all you end up doing,

is building a Big Dome,

which has no Big Idea,

and very few people want to enter a Big Dome.

This is where, in my view, the Liberal Democrats are succeeding.

We published our general approach to this last summer,

in our pre-manifesto, Freedom in a Liberal Society.

It states quite clearly our view that there can be a modern progressive politics,

that takes traditional equality issues,

and recasts them into liberty issues.

It takes the issue of the liberty,

and places it right at the forefront of the message we will take to the country.

By doing that, I hope that we can make liberty not only the challenge for progressives, but the challenge for the country as a whole.

Alan Milburn – 2001 Speech to the CNO Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Alan Milburn, the then Secretary of State for Health, to the CNO Conference in November 2001.

It is a great pleasure to be here today with people who are leading the process of reform and improvement in the NHS.

Wherever I go in the NHS it is no coincidence that where reform is taking hold nurses are often in the lead. NHS Direct – led by nurses. NHS walk in centres – led by nurses. Nurses, midwives and health visitors – leading reform in primary care, hospital services, rehabilitation, maternity services. Nurses were modernising NHS services before it became fashionable.

That’s true because nursing values are NHS values. Caring. Compassionate. Professional. Dedicated. The needs of the patient at the core of all you do. Everything we do has to preserve and promote these values. Our programme of reform and the nursing profession’s guiding values are as one – they are about redesigning the NHS around the needs of patients. That is what reform must mean – tearing down the barriers between health and social care, removing the demarcations between NHS staff, ending the old ways of doing things that stand in the way of more patients getting quicker, higher quality treatment.

Reform and innovation is taking hold out there. It is important that we harness it and that we evaluate it. I know there have been concerns about the level of investment going into nursing research about what works best for patients and what does not. So it is a pleasure to be able to tell you at the outset that I have decided to spend over £6 million over five years on a new programme of research to support the delivery of high quality evidence-based nursing and midwifery care.

Much of what I want to say today is about the greater role that I believe nurses can play in delivering improved services for patients. But I want to try to locate the contribution that I believe nurses can make – and are making – in the context of the wider reform programme taking place today in the NHS.

I want to start by thanking you for what you do, day-in, day-out, on behalf of patients. I know nurses – whether it’s in the community or in hospitals – are working under very real pressure. You are on the front line of many of the major challenges which face our country today – addressing the problems of poverty and deprivation, a growing elderly population, growing public expectations too.

Meeting these challenges must sometimes seem like a Herculean task. Sometimes there is scant thanks for what you do. And yet just a few months ago when people faced the choice in this country between short term tax cuts and long term investment in public services, the country backed public services and they backed the people working in public services. I think we should all take heart from that.

People have learned a harsh lesson over the last 10 – 20 years. Today people know a fair society, where everyone in our communities and not just some get a fair chance, can only be built on the sure foundations of a strong economy and strong public services.

We all know today we are a long way from having public services to match Britain’s position as the fourth largest economy in the world. We know too that the public are deeply impatient for change. Some commentators, some politicians even, say public services can never deliver, that private provision is the only answer.

I say that on grounds of efficiency and equity that view is wrong.

The NHS is the fairest way of providing health care to our people. It is based on the right principles – of care being available according to the scale of your need not the size of your wallet. But I say with equal firmness that failure to deliver reform in the NHS will prove the cynics and the doubters right. Reform has to deliver NHS services that are more responsiveness to the people who use them.

People grow up today in a consumer society. Services – whether they are private or public – succeed or fail according to their ability to respond to modern expectations. People today exercise more choices in their lives than at any point in history. Many can afford to walk away from public services which fail to command their confidence. People will no longer tolerate second rate services, dirty wards, waits of 18 months for an operation or 18 hours on a trolley. That’s why there is such a huge effort going on to redesign services from the patients point of view. To get waiting times down, make services more flexible and more convenient for the people who use them. To provide easier access, round the clock.

These big changes require big reforms:

To put in place for the first time national standards and independent inspection to monitor them.

To provides incentives to reward good performance and help to correct poor performance.

To devolve power to frontline staff in frontline services to encourage diversity and local creativity.

To change how services are organised and how staff are employed so that the needs of the patient always come first.

To give patients more choice including through greater co-operation between the public and the private sectors.

These reforms aren’t easy. Reform is high risk. In the NHS today there is a huge programme of change taking place. There is a lot of weariness and I know there’s quite a lot of wariness. But I believe passionately that the risks of reforming are far less than the risks of standing still.

The stakes are high for the health service. The debate on the NHS has moved on. For years it was all about the need for more investment, since for decades the NHS had suffered under-investment. Today we are putting that right. And because sustained investment will continue throughout this Parliament the debate on the NHS is now very different from what it was just a few years ago.

The debate today is about whether even with this enhanced level of resources the way we organise and fund health care in this country can ever deliver a modern patient-focussed service.

I believe there are good grounds for optimism. For a start the investment is going in with the NHS today the fastest growing health care system of any major country in Europe.

People – staff as well as patients – sometimes ask where the money is being spent. Aside from on staff – including the thousands of new staff the NHS is employing today – it is going on providing better services to patients. For example, waiting times of over twelve months for a hospital operation have fallen by 13% in just one year. Cancer patients are being seen by a hospital specialist within two weeks when they used to have to wait months. There are 3,000 more heart operations, over 150 more chest pain clinics, 17% more cardiologists. Prescribing cholesterol-lowering drugs is up by over one third. We are spending over £250 million on new drugs for conditions such as cancer, heart disease, dementia and arthritis. Free nursing care has started. 7 million callers a year are being helped by NHS Direct nurses. 40 nurse-led Walk in Centres are now open. 1,000 GP surgeries are being improved. Thousands of new intermediate care beds and places have been established. The biggest hospital building programme in NHS history is underway. This year for the first time in thirty years there are more beds in hospitals. The programme we outlined in the NHS Plan is on course to be delivered.

I know there is a long way to go. There are very real problems to set alongside the real progress being made. Patients wait far too long for treatment. Staff shortages. Dilapidated buildings. Outdated equipment. Decades of neglect have taken their toll on the NHS and indeed on people work in the NHS. Only a fool believes that decades of neglect can be reversed in a few years of investment. The NHS Plan is not for one year or two years: it is for ten years.

So it really is time that we had a bit of balance in the debate about the NHS. Not only is the glass half full and not half empty – it is being topped up. No one should fall for the fallacy that unless we solve every problem in the NHS no problem is being solved at all. We know in these next few years we must deliver improvements and by working together we will deliver.

Delivery crucially depends on one million NHS staff. Without you it simply will not happen.

That is why we need more nurses at the frontline – in primary and community services as much as in hospital services. We’ve made a start. Nursing vacancies – while still too high – are falling. There are 17,000 more nurses working in the NHS today than just four years ago. And there are 20,000 more to come.

The cuts in nurse training that took place in the 1990s have now been reversed. Indeed, there has been a 40% increase in nurse and midwifery university places. Applications for nursing degrees are up by over 80%. And I can report today that the latest figures show that the number of nurses who left the NHS but who have now returned is well over 9,000.

We’ve turned the corner on nurse recruitment. But we can’t have people coming in through the front door and leaving by the back door. Retaining nursing staff must now be the priority.

A fairer deal on pay will play its part. We do need a fairer pay system for rewarding nurses and other staff for the enormous contribution they make to patient care. Negotiations are going well and I am determined to press ahead with final negotiations on all elements of the new pay system. The aim will be to complete this work as early as possible next year so that a final agreement can be reached as soon as information on future NHS resources are available. Following consultation by the NHS trade unions, this will enable us to begin the process of implementation during 2002/3.

Providing we can reach agreement, many nurses will be significant gainers from the new pay system we envisage. In the meantime we will continue to target extra help to aid both recruitment and retention including in those parts of the country where the cost of living is highest.

More pay alone will not do the trick. The truth is we will not be able to get more nurses at the NHS frontline unless we offer more support at the frontline. By offering nurses more flexible employment, as every NHS employer will have to do within the next few years. By using the £100 million we will save as health authorities and regional offices are abolished to invest in extra childcare to help nurses balance their family and their working lives.

As an organisation – throughout the organisation – the NHS must now focus on removing those barriers that stand in the way of nursing staff being able to use all of their skills to improve services for patients.

Our reform programme for the NHS has at its core an absolute determination to harness the commitment and know-how of staff to improve care for patients. Where nursing staff have been given their heads they have delivered far-reaching change. I see that wherever I go in the NHS.

Matrons empowered to get the fundamentals of care right for patients. Hundreds of nurse consultants now in post. Reforms which have used nursing skills to make same day tests and diagnosis the norm and not the exception. Reforms which have cut waiting times for dermatology treatment from months to days by putting nurse consultants and GPs in charge of providing the service. Reforms which have used the skills of nurses to speed up treatment for cancer patients. Reforms which have allowed nurses in accident and emergency departments to assess patients and so cut waiting times for treatment.

These reforms – alongside the investment in more nurses, more doctors, more skilled professionals – are about using skills to best effect, with care delivered by teams and with flexibility around the needs of patients. These reforms are breaking through the old demarcations. They are liberating the skills of nurses to transform services for patients. What is happening in some places now needs to happen everywhere.

The people at this conference today are central to this reform programme. Your job is to empower nurses to deliver patient-centred care. You already have some the authority to do that. Now I want top give you more authority still.

A year ago the Chief Nursing Officer published her ‘Ten Key Roles for Nurses’ in the NHS Plan. She set out the functions that appropriately qualified nurses should be allowed to perform to improve care for patients. In the best places nurses have been allowed to take on these new roles. In too many places they have been stopped from doing so.

In my view it is just absurd that in some hospitals nurses can order x-rays while in others they can’t. Or that in one hospital nurses can discharge patients but in a neighbouring one they can not. Limiting nurses roles and holding back nurses talents not only makes nurses and doctors the losers. The patient loses out.

For too long there has been a vicious cycle where the NHS has not been able to perform to its full potential because it has failed to support staff to perform to their full potential.

Today I can tell you how we intend to change this situation so that nurses everywhere are able to use their skills to the full. The key will be the modern matron. Matrons will champion the interests of the patient within the hospital so matrons must also champion greater power for nurses within the hospital.

That’s why I will be asking matrons in every hospital to report annually on how the 10 key roles for nurses are being implemented. I am going to ask them to produce an annual report which will go to their Chief Executives, who have the ability to remove organisational blocks to greater nursing influence. It will go to the Chief Nursing Officer, who will be able to remedy legal and professional blocks as well as identify variations between different hospitals. And most importantly, it will go to their hospitals new Patients’ Forum so that patients can see whether the necessary reforms have taken hold.

This is about allowing nurses to break through the glass ceiling that has for too long held them back. It is about unlocking the talents of nurses to improve care for patients. And there is one further development that I can announce today to help make that happen.

I am convinced we need more clinicians in key leadership roles throughout the health service. That is why I was disappointed to see the results of the survey of Nurse Directors we commissioned through the Modernisation Agency. Only around half of Nurse Directors who apply for Chief Executive posts get an interview.

The majority apply only once because they are put off by the selection procedure which, ironically, makes them feel that they are unsuitable for a Chief Executive post because they are a nurse. Often they play down their nursing role and clinical expertise, yet it is precisely that clinical insight and understanding of patient care that is the experience we ought to value most in our top people. It is precisely because nurses are closest to the patient in the NHS that we need nurses closest to the power in the NHS. Nurses need to be in positions of leadership right across the NHS. There must be no glass ceilings for nurses.

We have already made funding available to provide leadership development programmes for over 30,000 frontline nursing staff. I can announce today a new programme to develop nurses as potential Chief Executives. The programme will be specifically designed for nursing, medical and allied health professionals to put them on an equal footing to compete for Chief Executive posts. Next year it will provide up to 100 places for senior clinical leaders.

All of this is about one thing: to unleash the tide of innovation that exists amongst staff in every surgery and in every hospital.

In our first term, the Government established a clear framework of national standards and policies to help us address the postcode prescribing and postcode performance which existed across the NHS. With these in place from our first term this second term is all about shifting the centre of gravity to staff at the NHS frontline.

The NHS is a high trust organisation. It works on the basis of trust between patient and professional. In the way it is organised the NHS now needs to enshrine that trust. It needs to give more control to the NHS frontline. I don’t treat patients. I don’t work in the GP surgery or the local NHS hospital. You do. The NHS can not be run from Whitehall. Just as schools now have greater control so local health services must now be given greater control too.

Last Friday, we published the NHS Reform Bill to ensure that by 2004 the GPs and nurses, patients and local communities who run primary care trusts will control three quarters of the total NHS budget.

By then two-thirds of existing health authorities will have been abolished. The NHS regional offices will have been abolished too. Power will have been devolved to frontline NHS services. Cash for local health services will be allocated directly to local primary care trusts so that they can decide how to commission services for the local communities they serve. I have heard from too many people too often in the NHS that resources have not been getting through to the frontline. The NHS Reform Bill will mean resources going directly to the NHS frontline.

The government’s reform programme has to breakdown the monolithic structures of the NHS in favour of a more decentralised pluralist and responsive health service. A modern health service can not be run like an old style centralised bureaucracy but should instead devolve power and resources to frontline services and frontline staff. The advent of Primary Care Trusts – in which nurses must play a leading role – is the biggest devolution of power in the history of the NHS.

I want to see a new culture of public sector enterprise in the NHS to rival the spirit of private sector enterprise which developed during the last few decades in our country. That requires more discretion over how local budgets are spent. It requires greater freedoms and more rewards for organisations which succeed. It requires greater help and more support – rather than blame – for those which do not. And it relies on you using your authority to innovate and develop new ways of delivering services to patients.

As standards and performance improve so greater autonomy will take hold. Good hospitals will get extra resources to help turn round persistently failing hospitals. And devolution to NHS organisations will be matched by devolution within NHS organisations. More qualified nurses should have the power to prescribe. Matrons will have the power to fine cleaning contractors that fail to keep wards cleans. In hospitals ward sisters will have control over ward budgets. In the community health visitors will have control over community budgets.

We need to go further still. Many hospitals already involve ward sisters and charge nurses in managing their ward staffing budgets. I can announce today that the Modernisation Agency, will over the next 12 months, lead a management programme to support the devolution of staffing budgets to those ward sisters and charge nurses in England’s hospitals who do not yet have that control.

An Audit Commission report on ward staffing, being published today estimates a typical ward budget for a cardiology ward at £560,000 a year. Within 12 months I hope all ward sisters and charge nurses will be in control of ward staffing budgets.

Ward sisters and charge nurses are best placed to know the day to day needs of patients and the hour by hour demands on staff. It is because they understand that they should be in control. They should be able to decide the mix of grades, the mix of skills, the mix of jobs they need on the ward. Patients on a ward, particularly the elderly and most vulnerable, need caring skills alongside clinical skills. Some feel that over the last few decades these caring skills have got lost. I believe it is time to re-emphasise them. That is why we have placed such a strong emphasis on cleaning up the wards, improving the food and introducing new jobs such as ward housekeepers to make sure that patients day to day needs are being met. Meeting patients’ needs will be enhanced by allowing ward sisters to decide the number and mix of nurses, care assistants and ward housekeepers. It will be the job of matrons to support ward sisters and charge nurses to discharge these functions.

After almost half a century of central control Whitehall must devolve NHS resources to the NHS frontline. To decentralise decisions to staff at the NHS frontline. To deliver better care for patients at the NHS frontline.

This is the programme of reform we are embarked upon.

It is a programme where local communities will have greater say over the local health service.

Where the health service is more diverse. Where services are more responsive to patients and where patients have greater choice over services.

Where public and private providers work together to deliver the core NHS principle – care that is free, according to need not ability to pay.

It is a programme where the power of nurses, as professionals, as practitioners, will be vital to delivery.

By working together it is a programme that we will deliver.

Alan Milburn – 2001 Speech to the Fabian Society

Below is the text of the speech made by Alan Milburn, the then Secretary of State for Health, on 21 October 2001.

Nye Bevan’s shadow hangs over every health secretary, especially Labour secretaries. He was the architect of a care system based on values community, solidarity, and belief that we achieve more together than ever can alone.

Our commitment to the values of NHS binds today’s generation Labour Ministers Bevan generation. And yet our pride in creation last century must not stand way its necessary re-creation for this century. attachment has too often been structures when it should have values. end do change with times. endure over time.

Bevan’s greatest success was not to overcome the intransigence or conservatism of those opposed to creating the new NHS, enormous though that achievement was. It was not to forge a particular structure for the NHS because as Bevan himself later conceded there may have been better ways of organising the new health service. It was neither of these things. His greatest achievement was to build a national coalition behind the values of the NHS. A system based on need not ability to pay, free to all and available to all. A system which removed the fear of becoming ill and having to face the doctor’s bill. The boldest ever attempt to break the vicious circle where poverty brought illness and then illness brought ever greater poverty. These were the right principles then. They remain the right principles now.

But Bevan’s was a structure forged out of the experience of war. It took a particular structural form – state ownership through nationalisation. After all the Second World War had been won by a society committed – after five years of total war – to the notion of collective action to solve national problems. People had made sacrifices in their own lives – many of their own lives – in pursuit of the common good. During the War the values of solidarity and the actions of the State converged. The State was the focal point for the solidarity of the British people.

Conscription meant that everyone had to take common risks. Rationing was treated the same.

And this approach worked. We won the war. And when Labour peace same was applied. took on big national problems by creating institutions. Coal Board – to take over a failing industry. British Transport Commission railway system. Health Service care

In 1948 there were 1.334 voluntary and 1,771 municipal hospitals. A confusion of different systems. No clear standards. No national planning. The NHS brought order out of chaos. It provided the basis for the first time in our history for a national system of health care.

And yet it was far from perfect. Indeed elsewhere in Europe governments, many of them socialist or social democrat, forged institutions which favoured greater community ownership over state ownership. Here in Britain centralised control still means, in Bevan’s famous phrase that when a bedpan is dropped the noise reverberates throughout Whitehall.

Indeed throughout the last two decades of structural upheaval in NHS essential post-war structure top down control has remained largely intact. result been that too often governments have defended interests as a provider services when they should focussed on patients consumers services.

It is right of course that there should be national accountability for the workings of our country’s health care system. For fairness sake there should be clear national standards applied across all parts of the country. It is right too that government should allocate resources to ensure that NHS cash meets health needs.

But beyond that I believe the old top-down model of the 1940s cannot deliver in the twenty first century. Vesting control at the centre has diminished control where it counts – in local communities where local health services interact with local people. In the modern age that will no longer do. For public services to command public confidence today they have to give greater control and more choice to the people who use them,

This is the key challenge we face in government as go about our fundamental task for this second term of reforming great public services: how to reconcile maintenance equitable access all with greater choice individual. policy education example, give parents more school and diversity provision within a framework rising national standards.

In health I believe we can best meet this challenge in three ways. Firstly by reforming the NHS to deliver improved and more responsive services to match modern needs. Secondly, by ensuring patients have more power and greater choice over services. Thirdly, by empowering communities to have greater involvement with local services.

First then modernising health care. People grow up today in a consumer society. Services – whether they are private or public succeed fail according to their ability respond modern expectations. Bevan’s was an era where expectations among the were lower, deference institutions and professions greater. exercise more choices lives than at any point history. Many can afford walk away from which do not command confidence. one nation Britain cannot be built on two tier care but failure deliver big improvements NHS will if we careful inevitably make case for

The way NHS services were provided in Bevan’s generation simply will not do for this generation. People no longer tolerate second rate services, dirty wards, waits of 18 months an operation or hours on a trolley. That why there is such huge effort going to redesign from the patients point view. get waiting times down, make more flexible and convenient who use them. provide easier access, round clock. Alongside problems today progress.

The record investment and far-reaching reforms we outlined in the NHS Plan are beginning to bite. For first time there is a sensible relationship between public private sectors expand care available patients. clear national standards means implement them. real incentives reward good performance alongside help end poor performance. getting health social working together rather than against each other.

And yes, progress takes time. The problems remain in the NHS but today the NHS is the fastest growing health service of any major country in Europe. This year there are 3000 more NHS heart operations. Prescriptions for drugs to prevent heart attacks are up by a third on last year. People with suspected cancer, who used to wait for months to see a specialist, are now being seen within two weeks. There are more beds in hospitals this year for the first time in thirty years. New hospitals, more staff, new equipment – are all coming through at record rates.

But investment alone will not do the trick as today’s Audit Commission makes very clear. Making progress is not just a question of resources but of reform. So whilst we will invest
£100 million to reduce waiting times in A&E that must be accompanied with organisational improvement in individual departments and management change across the hospital.

At the heart of public concerns about NHS is sense that its services are simply too indifferent to needs patients. Staff and patients alike up against a system feels much like 1940s. confidence demands fundamental change not just in level investment but culture today – put parents pupils first schools hospitals surgeries.

That brings me to my second point: a health service designed around the needs of patients must give more power patients. Better education, greater leisure opportunities and easier access information mean that people today are less likely accept passive role as recipients care. Crucially meet’s expectations, NHS, true its values, offer not just fairness but choice.

The NHS has always been strong on fairness but weak choice. It was born into a world where everyone given the same rations. In top down model there rationed care, capacity shortages and culture of paternalism, strove for equity population at expense choice individual. Today we have an opportunity to reconcile As expands its capacity, our task – make investment reforms necessary over months years ahead – is demonstrate that can expand without compromising equity.

That is why we say choice in health care should not be about forcing patients to pay for their own care. privatising NHS services. It expanding capacity and reforming can only happen with a greater plurality of provision through longer-term relationship between the public, private voluntary sectors providing more patients.

In other words what we must not do, as we seek to embed choice within the values of the NHS, is to abandon equity. We must not throw the baby out with the bath water. Let me give you an example. Some commentators argue that patients getting access to hospitals only via GPs limits choice. The truth is, however, our list-based GP system is not only genuinely envied abroad, it enjoys high satisfaction levels among patients at home. It brings major health benefits through continuity of care. It engenders high levels of trust between patients and professionals. And it manages the 90% of common illnesses better and cheaper than a hospital ever could.

But even here we need to make changes get a better balance between choice for the individual and fairness society as whole. Patients can already choose their GP but there is limited information about choices open them. improve on that by ensuring primary care trusts available people in local community they serve availability of services, specialisms female GPs, alongside data waiting times other aspects performance. provide bigger range services cater different lifestyles choices. More GPs who specialise treating particular diseases. NHS Direct advice treatment. Faster surgery appointments. walk centres where lack instant access.

Crucially, modern GPs should not just be gatekeepers. They should be navigators, guiding patients through the system and helping them make informed choices about their care. And here there is much more we can do to improve choices for patients. When we abolished the internal market in the NHS we restored GPs’ rights to refer patients to different hospitals. In most places though there is only one local hospital. That is why we have to raise clinical standards and cut waiting times in every hospital. From all the evidence I have seen, at home and abroad, the fundamental choice patients want to see is the choice of access to a good local hospital. Unlike the Tories’ botched internal market this is Labour’s primary objective. Over the last four years we have developed an array of means to deliver that – including cash that is tied to outputs and now a ratings system that gives greater freedom to the best performing hospitals and that franchises the management of the poorest performing hospital.

These levers are producing change. But the problem is they all top down. entail hospital responding to centre when what hospitals need be able do respond patients. So alongside these we should give patients greater choice over location of their treatment as another more direct means getting directly in other words not just about making patient feel good NHS. It giving power

From April next year patients will have more power. Any patient who finds their operation is cancelled at the last minute and are not then re-admitted within 28 days be able to choose an alternative hospital for treatment. They can public or private NHS pay there. This act as a powerful incentive hospitals improve performance on operations which causes misery frustration staff.

As capacity grows in the NHS we can now consider how to extend this choice principle to other aspects of hospital care. By March next year 5 million patients will have already chosen dates for hospital appointments convenient to themselves. By 2004 two thirds of all in patients and outpatients will be booked at the convenience of the patient not the system. By 2005 all patients will be in that position. And by then of course waiting times should be much lower.

Even then some patients will find themselves stuck with a longer waiting time at their local hospital than is available in other hospitals. London today for example the average all inpatient specialities varies between 7 weeks and 23 weeks. If we could extend choice of particularly to those who wait longest it would give patient greater control over own times treatment. Provide another incentive hospitals improve performance.

At present it is difficult for patients to choose opt a shorter waiting time. The way hospital funding rules work, deter rather than enhance patient choice. Many cannot exercise choice because they travel far afield. And there limited information available – or their GPs on times in different specialities hospitals. We are examining how these blocks can be removed I will bringing forward proposals near future.

Some within the NHS will see it as a threat. I can understand that. It is certainly a big change. But I believe it is the right thing to do. Today the patient has to be in the driving seat of change.

This brings me to the third point I want make: an NHS that is open choices by local patients must be better able respond needs of communities. way was set up took ownership away from It invested instead in State. course brought huge benefits. But there a cost. gulf grew between communities and running services. Today we find bridge it. all know strength feeling retain for their health You can see when walk into any hospital are met team volunteers drawn community. formal structures need embrace community support rather than keep at arms length.

I believe a key task for this second term is to reconnect public services with the communities they serve.

The wider social determinants of ill health – from poverty to poor housing call for the NHS be actively involved with others in local community improve and tackle inequalities. By devolving power frontline services most notably primary care trusts there is now an opportunity public re-engage communities they serve.

Devolution will help re-engage NHS staff too. The NHS is a high trust organisation. It works on the basis of trust between patient and professional. In the way it is organised it needs to enshrine that trust by giving more control to frontline services where patients and professionals interact. The simple truth is the NHS cannot be run from Whitehall. It employs over one million people. Improving services relies on them having a greater say over those services.

That is why we are slimming down tiers of management above the NHS frontline. It’s devolving resources to locally run Primary Care Trusts. Within three years they will control quarters budget. want unleash a spirit public sector enterprise that can rival any private enterprise. framework new national standards have established, use commitment and know-how staff improve for patients. give local freedoms innovate, develop services.

Patients should be at the heart of this process. present structures for giving patients a voice in NHS – most notably through Community Health Councils lack teeth and are out date. Just as reform is needed elsewhere here too. Alongside our plans forums to strengthen say local communities have over services we also need consider how can build on flowering experiments with citizen juries panels that has taken place recent years. I now asked Nigel Crisp, Chief Executive, work managers best Trusts advise me concept earned autonomy could relationship between they serve.

There is an analogy here with developments in urban planning the 1960s and 1970s which were supposed to usher a golden age of housing. That too was era expansion extra investment. Huge sums invested tower blocks council estates. intentions good. But outcomes – as we all know not. Estates became rundown almost quickly they put up, destroyed communities when intention create communities. Investment failed to deliver a new dawn social. It because people who be its residents never involved creation.

That’s why the relationship between citizens and public services in this 21st Century should be based on principles of decentralisation and empowerment. In health, in education, in housing, in local government and elsewhere we need to decentralise and empower staff and citizens alike. We must decentralise from the nation to the region. We must decentralise from local councils to local schools and to local housing estates. And in the NHS we must give communities more voice as well as giving patients more choice.

Our agenda for government must be about empowering citizens as well providing first class public services. It have at its heart a commitment to involvement much investment; reforming the way we engage deliver services; decentralisation key part of delivery.

For this generation of Labour Ministers our commitment to the values NHS must mean creating a more direct relationship between public and their services than was possible – or even conceivable in Bevan’s generation. That will require some big reforms. We need look at how can forge new settlement patients, professionals service. To open up choices for patients and recast structures so control means something simply state control.

Nye Bevan would not have been afraid of any these changes. For Nye winning elections was about gaining power over society. It using to change Indeed his whole philosophy summed up in that one phrase: “the purpose getting is be able give away.”

In conclusion then, I believe that just as the weakness of free markets are now clear, the shortcomings of monolithic, paternalistic public services are self-evident. Our answer is not just a stream of extra investment but a strategy of fundamental reform. To reshape public services, safeguarding equity of access whilst empowering the individual; to decentralise from Whitehall, ensuring greater local accountability within a framework of national standards. To deliver consistent quality and patient choice within an NHS which itself has more plurality of providers. This is an ambitious agenda for public service reform. It is an essential programme for this second term.

Alan Milburn – 2001 Speech to the Annual Social Services Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Alan Milburn, the then Secretary of State for Health, on 19 October 2001.

I want to set out today some of the improvements we have seen in the last year, some of the challenges we now face and the further progress we can now make.

There is today a shared agenda between local government and central government. A shared vision for social services and, I hope, for the wider public services. That is a vision of services designed around the needs of the user, rooted in the values of community.

In education: where pupils come first in highly performing local schools at the heart of their communities.

In health: where patients come first in hospitals and GP practices serving the needs of their communities.

And in social care: where the vulnerable adult or child come first in safe and sound community services.

In all of these areas local government is a valued and valuable partner. I strongly believe that should continue to be the case.

We have a shared agenda too, for improving quality in care. For services that offer fair access to all and which help promote opportunities for all.

I want to thank you for the contribution you make to the fairer society we want to create. People who work in social care – and those responsible for managing social care – do so under real pressure. You are on the front line of many of the major challenges which face our country today – addressing the problems of poverty and deprivation, a growing elderly population, and growing public expectations too.

And in this time of international tension, I want to place on record my gratitude for the work of local government – officers and members – in emergency planning and preparation. Your local contribution is vital to our national vigilance.

Meeting these challenges must sometimes seem like a Herculean task. Sometimes – often – there is scant thanks for what you do. And yet just a few months ago when people faced the choice in this country between short term tax cuts and long term investment in public services, the public of this country backed public services and they backed the people working in them. I think we should all take heart from that.

Today people know a fair society, where everyone in our communities and not just some get a fair chance, can only be built on the sure foundations of a strong economy and strong public services.

There can be no such thing as a fair society – or a strong economy – if the education system is geared to success for some but not for all, or if whole communities are laid waste by the ravages of drugs and crime. And we certainly cannot have a fair society if health and social services deny people help when they need it, where they need it.

We all know today we are a long way from having public services to match Britain’s position as the fourth largest economy in the world. We know too that the public are impatient for change. Some people say public services can never deliver, that private provision is the only answer for problems that are self evident.

I say that on grounds of efficiency and equity that view is wrong. But I say with equal firmness that failure to deliver reform in public services will prove the doubters right.

Delivering improvements in public services – in all aspects of our public services – is not an optional extra. In these next few years progress must be made – and be seen to be made – in all of our public services if we are to sustain progress towards the fairer society we seek.

There are good grounds for optimism. For a start the investment is going in. In health and education, with the NHS today the fastest growing health care system of any major European country.

In social services investment is growing too. I know there is real pressure on your budgets. I know that that’s true for children’s care and as well as elderly care. And that is why we responded just last week with a further £300 million of new funding for social care. It brings growth in social care budgets up to 3.7% in real terms next year compared to growth of 0.1% a year prior to this Government coming to office. I know we have not solved every funding problem. But we have made progress – and we will go on making progress.

I want to give you an example of one area of progress. Let me give you one example of progress. For years, politicians and newspapers blamed social workers for just about every ill our country faced. So, it is progress when I can come to this conference and say without equivocation: we need more social workers in this country not less.

That’s why today we are launching a three year social work recruitment campaign with a view to an extra 5000 social worker. I know that shortages of social care staff are biting hard in many parts of the country. But these shortages can be turned round. The nurse recruitment campaign we have run in the health service over the last few years has proved that. Last year at your conference I was able to provide extra cash to help students train for a career in social work. Now the recruitment campaign will set out the positive benefits of a social work career to help counteract the all too frequent negative coverage the profession receives in the media.

Expanding staff numbers and investing in frontline services then are the pre-conditions for improvements in social care. But investment alone will not deliver. The courage to invest must be matched with the courage to reform. And the courage to tell the truth about how things really are.

While I see real beacons of excellence in social services – just as there are real beacons of excellence elsewhere in public services – the best has not been available to the many: it has all too often only been available to the few. What is more, the needs of the service user have all too often come a poor second to the needs of the service provider.

In the modern world that will no longer do. To command public confidence our public services today have to offer choice as well as fairness to those who use them.

All the money in the world will not deliver these changes. Indeed, there is a danger that simply pouring more money in without linking it to reforms will ossify ways of working, embedding attitudes and structures that are long overdue for change.

Reform in social services then is as vital as reform in any other area of our public services. And just as in health or in education there are four main principles which underpin the reform programme:

First, high national standards and full accountability

Second, devolution to the front line to encourage diversity and local creativity

Third, flexibility around the needs of users in how staff are employed and how services are organised

And fourth, the promotion of alternative providers and greater choice.

So how should this programme apply to social services? Before I answer that, let me just say this: I know change is difficult – I know that there are real pressures out there – but it really must happen. Whether it is the exceptional high profile service failure or simply the day-to-day reality of unresponsive services, public confidence cries out for change.

We should be confident that we can meet the challenge of change. There is much to be proud of and much on which to build. The work we have done together in bringing in the Quality protects programme with its focus on the needs of the most vulnerable children, the General Social Care Council, the National Care Standards Commission testifies to our shared commitment to improvements in social care.

So let me begin with standards and accountability.

People have the right to know that they will get certain minimum standards wherever they live. And I am pleased to come to this conference today and report real progress. Today I am publishing the latest set of social services performance indicators. They cover performance over the last three years.

Compared to last year, 20 out of 23 indicators show either improvement or a continued high level performance.

More older people than ever before are being to helped to live in their own homes rather than in care homes.

The number of children adopted has risen again giving them the chance of a stable family life.

Compared to two years ago there are 850 more children who have found permanent adoptive families – well on the way to meeting our ambitions for a 40% increase by 2005.

I really do want to congratulate you for the progress being made. But as ever, there is much more to be done. It should concern us all that the target on delayed discharges was missed. That means people are being kept in hospital when they should be at home. There was a slight improvement this year it is true, but with the new money I announced last week for social services specifically to address the “bed blocking” issue, I expect to see significant improvements during the course of next year.

Similarly, more than 6 in 10 children are still going out into the world from care without a formal qualification. None of us would be happy with that for our own children. It is also unacceptable that only one quarter of councils reviewed all their child protection cases on time.

What is crystal clear from these tables is that there is excellence in our social services. But it is excellence spread too thinly. It is available only to some when surely our ambition as a nation must be to make it available to all.

Of course local services should be attuned to the needs of different local communities. That is why we have locally run social services. But right now, as these tables show, the variation in performance across social care is just too great.

Take London for example where there are particular problems with cash pressures and wide societal pressures. In one part of the City fewer than one in five children leaving care had a qualification. In another part almost 6 in 10 had. In one part of the North only 2% of looked-after children were adopted while in another part five times that number were. In both examples, alongside countless others, the councils concerned have similar locations, deal with similar problems of poverty and deprivation and have similar levels of funding.

These tables remove the excuses for unacceptable variations in performance. This is not primarily about money. It is about management and organisation. And that is the value of these tables. They expose those areas where performance needs to improve. I know there will always be arguments about the details in the tables and the methodology behind them but for me – and I hope for you too – there is a simple principle at stake here – the public who use our public services have a right to know how well those services are doing in comparison with others.

Public services don’t belong to me and they don’t belong you to either. They belong to the public. Accessible information for the users of public services is essential if we are to design services around the needs of users. That is what we are doing with schools and hospitals. And it is what we must now do for social services.

I know that current tables are far from perfect and are far too complicated. So I can announce today that we plan next year for a new approach which will provide more easily accessible information to the public about social services performance. From next year, we will bring together the existing performance data with information from inspections and in-year monitoring. The result will be a more rounded assessment of each council’s performance.

Just as we have recently done for hospitals this year, so from next year each council will receive a star rating for its overall social services performance. There will be separate ratings for adult and children’s services. We will work with the LGA and the ADSS on the details of the new system. I believe profoundly that it will help councils to improve their performance.

That brings me to the second part of the reform programme – devolving power and encouraging diversity.

Providing information to the public is just the first step. Being able to act on it is what counts. Action should follow assessment. Where there is good, bad and indifferent performance so different approaches are clearly needed.

Where there is good performance we should step back. Where there is poor performance we should be prepared to step in. We should offer more rewards for the best performers. And more help to turn around the poorer performers.

One of the greatest frustrations I hear expressed in the NHS and in social care too is that all too often rather than rewarding the good we simply bail out the bad. That is what we now must change if we are to provide the right incentives for improvement in all aspects of our social, and indeed all, services.

So beginning with this year’s best performers – including the top ten consistently high performing councils in Derby, South Tyneside, Sunderland, Derbyshire, Cornwall, Rotherham, York, Salford, Dudley and Leicestershire – in future all of them will get the greater local freedom they have earned.

We will invite the best performers to discuss with us how they could have greater control rather than less. We will explore with them a lighter touch inspection regime with non-children’s services being inspected, perhaps only every five years. We will consider removing the conditions attached to special grants so that top social services authorities are free to spend their money in ways they decide can best make the improvements in services for the communities they serve.

And we will give the best star rating performers their share of next year’s new £50 million performance fund to spend as they think fit. Some could go on staff bonuses. Some could go on developing new services. The point is that it will purely be a matter of local discretion.

The point is that good performance will earn the devolution of power. This new approach will not only reward success among the best it will encourage improvement among those who could be better.

The performance indicators show every council is doing well in some areas. Some authorities while not yet the best are improving and improving rapidly. Councils such as Cambridgeshire and Newcastle upon Tyne deserve special praise since they have only recently come out of special measures and they are making record improvement. We now need to make sure that every one of them do even better and that others can learn from what they have achieved. We will look to the Social Care Institute for Excellence as it develops its role, to disseminate and embed good practice.

I can announce today that we will consider using a part of the new Performance Fund to allow the fastest improvers to spread the benefits of their knowledge to others that are in most need of improvement.

For the few who are genuinely poor performers – including the bottom ten of the Isles of Scilly, Richmond on Thames, Buckinghamshire, West Berkshire, Windsor & Maidenhead, Kirklees, Torbay, Bracknell Forest, Warwickshire and Lambeth – I believe that different action is needed. We already have mechanisms to deal with poor performance including the powers to put Councils on special measures. There is evidence that performance does improve when the SSI is closely involved. But sometimes delivering improvements simply takes too long. So I can say today that I will act using Best Value and other intervention powers where the evidence suggests the pace of improvement is simply too slow.

I will also be discussing with the LGA, and with Stephen Byers at the DLTR, how we can use external expertise from the voluntary, statutory and private sector to turn round performance where local social services are persistently failing or falling behind.

We will want to explore in particular how to encourage the best performing local social services to take over responsibility for running the worst. I want to encourage in social care, as much as we are trying to do in health care, the development of a new public sector enterprise culture where we get the best people in public services to lead improvements across the rest of our public services.

So, today I am putting this year’s worst performers on notice:

First, they will be required to agree with the Chief Inspector an action programme for improvement.
Second, special measures will follow if services do not improve.
Third, by the time we award star ratings next summer, if performance and prospects for further improvement remain poor, I will consider using other intervention powers.
In some cases I know that social services management can struggle because there are problems at the corporate or even the political level. If I find evidence of corporate failures limiting social services delivery I will consider triggering corporate inspections so that we can find where the problems lie so then we can tackle them.

Where councils and the NHS are not working together effectively, I will consider asking the SSI and CHI jointly to investigate the reasons for partnership problems. If necessary I will use my powers to compel local health and social services to work more effectively together.

That brings me the third strand of the reform programme – building services that are flexible enough to meet the needs of their users. The painful truth about the way we organise care is that it is like a maze for too many of its users.

There is confusion and uncertainty about where the responsibilities of health and social care begin and end. Too often people who rely on these services – whether they are elderly or disabled or have a mental illness – find themselves faced with an endless procession of staff carrying out roughly the same assessments. And then of course there are turf wars over who funds what and who does not.

I know there is a monumental effort going into all parts of the country into improving partnership working both in health and in social services. I want to thank you again for the progress you have made. We saw the results of that last winter. I hope we can see it again this winter. Where partnership works it works brilliantly. Where it does not the needs of the user come a poor second to disputes between services.

And let me just say candidly, I know the problem lies as much on the NHS side of the fence as on your side. The answer is to take down the fence. I believe we now have the means to do so.

From next year we will be putting in place a single process for assessing the needs of elderly people for health and social care. I hope that can be accompanied by fewer demarcations between staff to build on the pioneering work in places like Wiltshire where social workers and community nurses work as a single team.

Greater flexibility between staff needs to be matched by greater flexibility between organisations. Frankly, so far I have been disappointed by the take up of the legal powers, which are now available, for health and social care to pool their budgets and work more closely in partnership. I will be looking for faster take up of these powers in the year ahead, towards our aim of having them used in every part of the country.

What the bed-blocking problem in the NHS reveals is the simple truth that social services and health services sink or swim together. Each needs the other. The older person needs both. What we have to move to then, is one care system. Not by takeovers but through partnerships.

Today, I am pleased to be able to confirm that next year the first of up to fifteen Care Trusts will come on stream, bringing together in a single organisation health and social services for older people or for people with mental health needs. Eventually, I hope Care Trusts will be in place in all parts of the country because they break through bureaucratic boundaries in order to focus on the needs of service users.

That brings me to the final part of the reform programme – promoting greater choice and diversity in provision. In social care diversity of provision has already taken hold. Over 80% of residential care and over 50% of home based care is provided by the independent sector. Some of the best learning disability services are run by voluntary organisations.

Yet for too long, in my view, there has been a stand off in the relationship between the statutory, private and voluntary care sectors. There should be no ideological barriers getting in the way of the best care for vulnerable people.

Last week, I hope we saw the beginning of the end of that stand off with the publication of the ground breaking agreement between the Government and representatives of the NHS, local councils and independent sector providers in housing, health and social care. The document we published, “Building capacity and partnership in care”, marks a decisive break from the short termism of the past. It sets out principles and practices to underpin what I hope will become a more mature long term relationship between the public and private care sectors.

The recent losses of capacity in the care home sector call for such a relationship, with longer term contracts between councils and care homes. They call for the independent sector to have a seat at the table for planning future provision. They call for public and private sectors to work together not just to shore up existing provision in care homes but to develop new services in people’s own homes: intensive home care packages; new more active intermediate care where the emphasis is firmly on rehabilitation and independence. All of this is about providing more choice for users by promoting greater diversity in provision.

The £300 million we announced last week to deal with the problem of delayed discharge will translate the Agreement into action. This is a cash-for-change programme. We want to see real change to eat into the bed blocking problem. By the end of this winter, we want to see 1,000 fewer older people stuck in hospital at any time, that way we can release 1,000 extra beds for other NHS patients. Next year we will want to see further progress still towards our aim of ending widespread bed blocking by 2004.

Together, people working in health and social services are at can bring about these improvements. They can do it providing they seize the opportunities which now exist to reform these services.

For too long, social services have been undervalued in our country. Blamed when things go wrong. Ignored when things go right. Often expected to fail. Sometimes set up to fail.

So, let us make a fair assessment of social services in our country today.

Investment is now rising and performance is improving but there is much more that must be done to put the needs of the user at the centre of the service.

To do that, the best in social services must help reform the rest of social services. The old barriers, which divided health from social care, and separated public from private provision, must now be overcome.

The poor performers must receive direct support to do better.

The big improvers must spread the lessons of improvement.

The best performers must have new freedoms to be better still.

None of this is easy. Much of it will take time. All of it requires a huge amount of effort. This is a reform programme based on our belief in public services and our belief in social services. It is based also on our belief that these services can be better – and must become better than they are today. And most of all, we believe they can be better than they are. What we must now do is demonstrate we can deliver. We’ve made substantial steps forward – we need to build on that and we need to deliver. The public expect no less.

Alan Milburn – 2001 Speech to the NHS Confederation Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Alan Milburn, the then Secretary of State for Health, on 6 July 2001.

The NHS is a graduate of the school of hard knocks. You only have to read a few of the daily newspapers to know that. The NHS was born in the face of fierce opposition. Today, still facing opposition from some quarters – some opposed to NHS principles, some opposed to NHS reforms.

Those of us who are wedded to those principles, who believe in those reforms, should draw confidence from them. For me, I have never been more confident about the NHS:

– the people working in it;

– the ethos they espouse.

And more confident about its ability to deliver far reaching improvements in the care it provides to patients.

My confidence stems from meeting people like those who received awards last night; ordinary people doing an extraordinary job, making reform happen in the work they do each and every day.

And when people had a choice at the General Election a few weeks ago, they backed public services and they backed the people who work in public services.

Today people know a fair society, where everyone in our communities- and not just some – get a fair chance, can only be built on strong public services alongside a strong economy. There can be no such thing as a fair society – or a strong economy – if the education system is geared to success for some but not for all. There is no such thing as a fair society if whole communities are laid waste by the ravages of drugs and crime. Above all else, we cannot have a fair society if health care denies people help when they need it where they need it.

In the five weeks of the election campaign I met staff and patients up and down the country. I visited good places and some less good places. I heard what NHS staff had to say. I saw what they were trying to do.

As a Health Visitor said to me on one visit, “it definitely feels better but it does feel like rolling a big boulder up hill.” There is an enormous effort going on throughout the NHS to bring about the improvements both staff and patients want to see.

As the election showed all too clearly people will no longer tolerate second class services. They will not put up with dirty wards or sluggish services. They quite rightly want health services which are responsive and which put their needs first. As we all know for too long the NHS has not been able to meet these tests. And people are impatient for improvement. The stakes are high for all of us who believe in the NHS.

Delivery – bringing about visible improvements in services – has to be the priority. A failure to deliver reform in the NHS will play directly into the hands of those who say that the NHS can never deliver.

The debate on the NHS has moved on. For years it was all about the need for more investment, since for decades the NHS had suffered under-investment. Today we are putting that right. With funding growing at twice the rate of the past the NHS is now the fastest growing health service of any major country in Europe. And because sustained investment will continue throughout this Parliament the debate on the NHS is now very different from what it was just a few years ago. It is now about whether even with this enhanced level of resources the way we organise and fund health care in this country can ever deliver a modern patient-focussed service. And you only have to read the comment sections of some of the daily newspapers to know that waiting in the wings are those who say that the fundamental principles of the NHS cannot work and must be abandoned.

I believe those newspapers are wrong. I believe those politicians on the Right who advocate their cause are wrong. I have a different set of beliefs. I believe in the NHS – in its principles and, above all, in the people working in it.

People do not work in the NHS to make a mint for themselves. They work in the NHS to make life better for others. It is the ethos of public service – its burning ambition to serve people regardless of their wealth or worth – that lies at the heart of public support for the NHS. It is the ethos of public service that can light the way to a fairer, more decent society in Britain today. But just as surely as it is that ethos of public service that makes the NHS, losing that ethos would break the NHS.

We risk the ethos of the NHS, its values and its principles, at our peril. That is why we say while we will forge a new relationship with the private sector, it is just that: a relationship, not a takeover. NHS values are not the same as private sector values. Health care relies on trust between patients and professionals. The fundamental reason the NHS is still trusted by patients today is because they know that decisions about their treatment are based on the scale of their needs not the size of their wallets. You only have to look across the Atlantic to see what happens when frontline health care is compromised by a clash of motives. Trust is lost. Competition replaces co-operation. Two tier care develops. In America, 40 million people have no health care cover whatsoever. A free market in health care does not work.

It is not the right way forward for health care in Britain. NHS values are British values – compassion, fairness, a belief in the strength of community, co-operation with others as the basis for individual progress. It would be folly to sacrifice these values and these principles. So while some subscribe to the philosophy that all things private are good, all things public are bad I say: that philosophy belongs not today but to yesterday.

There is no saviour of the NHS other than the NHS itself. But we do need every bit of help we can get to renew the NHS. That’s why we will not close our minds to the NHS and the private sector co-operating where private sector expertise or finance can bring benefit to NHS patients. The point is to define the nature of the relationship – what it is and what it is not. It is not about creating a mixed economy of care. It is about maximising the care that is available to NHS patients, based on NHS principles.

Some have said our proposals are too opaque. I say we have taken a hard look at where the private sector can help. First, using spare capacity in the private sector, such as in private hospitals, to perform operations on NHS patients. Second, getting private sector management to run some of the new stand-alone surgery centres our Manifesto commits us to building and which will specialise in precisely those procedures where private hospitals have some expertise. Third, extending PFI beyond the hospital sector where it has already helped deliver the biggest hospital building programme the NHS has ever seen into new PPPs in primary care, social services and the provision of equipment. And fourth using private sector management expertise such as in the provision of IT systems.

It is around these four activities that we will forge a new relationship between the NHS and the private sector. This is not privatisation – the taking of services out of the NHS. It is bringing into the NHS private sector help in those areas where it has a track record and where there are benefits for patients. The private sector will help but the NHS is – and will remain – Britain’s dominant health care provider.

It is for this reason that reform in the NHS has to come from within the NHS. It has to be led by the managers, doctors, nurses, therapists, scientists and all the other staff who hold the knowledge and the skills to improve services for patients. The best in the NHS making sure the best is available to all who use the NHS.

Reform from within is not an easy option. It means grasping nettles that for too long the NHS has failed to grasp. It means big changes – in the way the NHS is organised and in the way NHS staff work. It means overcoming old boundaries between services and traditional demarcations between staff. It means changing the relationship between NHS services and NHS patients. In all these ways reform is already underway. It is being led by NHS staff. It strengthens my belief that there is nothing wrong in the NHS that can’t be put right but what is best in the NHS. The test for the NHS today is to prove it can make these changes from within, not just in some services and in some places but for every patient, everywhere.

The choice for all those who care about the ethos of the NHS is straightforward: to stand on the sidelines carping, as some do, or to join in the process of reform as thousands of NHS staff are already doing. We will work – I will work – with all of those who genuinely want to make reform happen. But I say to those who would stand in the way of reform: there must be, there can be, there will be no veto on reform any more than there can be a veto on the pace of reform. The best way of supporting the public service ethos is to support public service reform.

Reform is difficult. There may be a rocky ride. Reform is a risky business as well as a rewarding one. Sometimes we’ll get things wrong as we try to put things right. That’s what leadership is all about. You know that in the organisations you lead – there is no improvement without innovation, no innovation without risk.

But we have to take the risks, make the changes, earn the improvements now because the clock is already ticking. Now is the time – with the foundations laid from our first term and a clear mandate for delivery in our second – to up the pace of reform. Not because we can promise an overnight transformation but because we know that we need to deliver progress towards that transformation. Patients and the public alike will stand for nothing less.

The NHS Plan is unashamedly long term in its ambitions. Expansion in staff and improvement in services takes sustained time and sustained effort as well as sustained resources. And we should all be clear about one thing: public confidence demands real progress – not just over this whole Parliament but over these next few years.

That calls for an absolute focus on what matters most to patients. How long they wait. The standards of care they receive. The sense that theirs is the only vested interest that counts in today’s NHS.

We have made a start – and I want to thank you for what you have done. In managing change, in navigating last winter, in making expansion happen. But now we must go further and we must go faster.

There is a big agenda to implement. The NHS Plan is an ambitious plan for improvement. I know it can’t all be done at once. There are some things that are more important than others.

Today I can set out to you the five areas where progress should now be focussed. These five are what matter most to patients.

First, on the conditions with the greatest clinical priority – cancer and heart disease and services for the elderly and those with mental illness. Rehabilitation services to build a bridge between the hospital and the home. Prevention and treatment services that improve outcomes and tackle inequalities. By 2005 we will be spending an extra £1 billion a year on cancer and cardiac services alone. Our ambition is to give our country levels of cancer and cardiac care that are no longer behind the rest but up with the best in Europe.

Second, primary care – the point of contact most patients have with the NHS. GPs and other staff are doing a good job under real pressure. That is why our priority has to be to increase the number of GPs as fast as we are able alongside expansion in nursing and other primary care professions too. And it has to be about getting extra investment directly to the frontline in primary care both to improve services for patients and to relieve pressures on staff. Together with the reform programme outlined in the NHS Plan – more specialist GPs, more personal medical services, a new GP contract – this investment will help give patients easier access to primary care services.

Third, emergency care – the point of contact patients most need to know is there for them when they require it. We will invest more in ambulance services, in accident and emergency departments and in expanding NHS Direct. We will also work to integrate these services so that better, faster care is there for patients. Far-reaching reforms and a better division of labour amongst clinical staff will, by 2004, have reduced average waiting times in accident and emergency departments to 75 minutes. Inappropriate trolley waits for admission and assessment will by then have been ended.

Fourth, cutting waiting times. The biggest concern about the NHS today is how long patients wait for treatment. It is frustrating for staff and distressing for patients. So building on what has been achieved to reduce waiting lists in our first term, our focus in this second term will now move on to reducing waiting times for treatment. In primary care. For ambulance services. In outpatients clinics, for inpatient treatment and in accident and emergency too. Today I am allocating £75 million to take forward reforms in orthopaedic, dermatology and ENT services so that patients do get better, faster treatment.

Fifth, getting the fundamentals of care right. Focussing on the patient experience to make sure that the wards are clean, the food is good, the care is there. That the buildings and equipment look good and feel good for both patients and for staff. That patients have more information and more influence over the services that they use.

Our priority then is simple: it is not an avalanche of new initiatives. It is delivery. To deliver progress on the NHS Plan. To deliver faster waiting times. Higher standards. To prove to public and staff alike that the NHS can be a service of first choice, not last resort.

I cannot make this happen. I don’t treat patients. I don’t provide GP services. I don’t manage NHS hospitals. You do. There are only one group of people who can transform the NHS. The people here today. The people in the service. The managers who lead change. The chairs and non-executives who can engage local communities in change. The frontline staff who are the key to change.

Delivery depends on more than a million people. Without them – without you – it simply will not happen. Right now NHS staff are working under real pressure. That is true in GPs surgeries, in community services and in hospitals too. Frontline staff – doctors especially – are feeling the strain. I know that. And I know we need to take action to address that.

Your top management priority is to engage with your staff – to support them so we can get more staff at the frontline and keep them at the frontline – to help them through the process of change so they can exercise power at the frontline.

First, then more staff and more support for staff. Here progress is coming through. What is more it is set to accelerate. The cuts in nurse and GP training places that took place in the 1990s have been reversed. Indeed, there has been a 40% increase in nurse and midwifery university places. There are also more scientists, more therapists, more doctors in training than ever before.

This year the NHS training budget is rising by 11%, the largest increase the NHS has ever seen. Investment in training will help sustain an unprecedented period of growth in NHS staff for a decade or more.

In the more immediate term, the NHS recruitment campaign is bearing fruit. Over 8,000 nurses and midwives – who left the NHS – have returned in the last eighteen months alone. And the campaign is now being targeted at groups like radiographers, midwives, clinical scientists.

Year by year to 2005 we can now be confident that the number of staff working on the NHS frontline will rise sharply. By then there will be 20,000 more nurses, 10,000 more doctors, 6,500 more therapists and scientists.

The corner is being turned on recruiting staff. We will maintain our efforts but our focus must now be on retaining them.

The biggest asset we have in the NHS is the one million people we employ. I know the newspapers are often full of stories about bad doctors. But we know that the NHS is full of good doctors. And good nurses, midwives, health visitors, scientists, therapists, cooks, porters, cleaners – and all the other staff who make the NHS tick. Our job is to get the best from all of them. Improvements in the way we treat patients can only happen if there are improvements in the way we treat staff. Our focus should be on removing the barriers that stand in the way of staff achieving their full potential.

We can’t get the best from staff if the NHS continues as an old-fashioned and rigid employer. Nowadays there is growing demand for more flexible employment from staff. Part time employment is becoming more popular. Some NHS employers have responded well to these changes. Others have not. Within two years every NHS employer will need to offer staff flexi-time, annual hours, flexible retirement or career breaks. The NHS has to be a more flexible employer if it is to become a model employer.

We won’t get the best from NHS staff if they are not helped to balance their family and their working lives. We know that 25,000 nurses alone say that help with childcare would encourage them to return to the NHS. That is why our manifesto commits us to extra investment in childcare. On top of the £30 million a year we are already pledged to invest by 2004 we will be investing an extra £100 million in improved childcare for staff.

As an organisation – in every part of the organisation – the NHS must now focus on removing those barriers that stand in the way of NHS staff being able to do their best for patients. Staff deserve to be valued – and to feel valued. That way we will get more staff at the NHS frontline. We will keep them working at the NHS frontline. And we will liberate their talents for the benefit of patients at the NHS frontline.

Our reform programme for the NHS must have as its core purpose an absolute determination to harness the commitment and know-how of staff to improve care for patients. Where staff have been given their heads they have delivered far-reaching change. You can see that in the cancer collaborative programme where joint working between clinicians, managers and patients has already reduced outpatient waiting times by 50% and radiology waiting times by 60%. The collaborative principle and the collaborative process now need to be spread to all parts of the NHS.

This second term is all about embedding far reaching reform in all parts of the health service and in social services too. Reform to reorganise services from the patient’s point of view – to make same day tests and diagnosis for example the norm and not the exception. Reform to overcome traditional demarcations between staff – to release the talents of nurses and therapists and relieve the pressures on doctors. Reform to break down barriers between services – to get health and social care working as one part of one organisation rather than competing organisations.

What we need now to do is to support more staff through the reform process. That is what giving staff protected time to improve their services is all about. It is what the Modernisation Agency and the Leadership Centre are all about. It is what Individual Learning Accounts for unqualified staff are all about. In time it is what the new University of the NHS will be all about too.

All of this is about one thing: to unleash the tide of innovation that exists among staff in every surgery and in every hospital.

With a clear framework of national standards and policies in place from our first term this second term will be all about shifting the centre of gravity to staff at the NHS frontline. The NHS is a high trust organisation. It works on the basis of trust between patient and professional. In the way it is organised the NHS now needs to enshrine that trust. It needs to give more control to the NHS frontline. The NHS cannot be run from Whitehall. Just as schools now have greater control so local health services must now be given greater control too.

Four years ago through the fundholding scheme GPs controlled just 15% of NHS resources. Today through the primary care groups and trusts they control 50%. Our manifesto commitment is to give the PCTs control of 75% of the NHS Budget. Working at the NHS frontline, the PCTs can harness all that is best about the NHS – good managers, strong clinical leaders, clear community involvement. The PCTs need to be the engine of change in the NHS, driving new partnerships with NHS Trusts, with social services, local agencies and the communities they all serve.

So I can confirm today that within two years PCTs will receive direct allocations of cash rather than cash being directed through health authorities. And I can announce today that in future resources for block capital, as well as for revenue, will be directed not just straight to PCTs but straight to NHS Trusts too.

For the first time in the history of the NHS the majority of NHS resources will go directly to the local services which provide and commission frontline care. By 2004 PCTs and NHS Trusts will be receiving at least £44 billion of capital and revenue direct at the frontline.

I want to give the local leaders of change the cash and the clout to get on with the job. That means slimming down tiers of management above the NHS frontline. It means by April next year abolishing the existing 95 health authorities. It means introducing a reduced number – of around 30 – more strategic health authorities with responsibilities, not for hands-on commissioning of services, but for oversight of local services. It means the existing NHS Regional Offices must go by April 2003.

I know this will be difficult to handle. I know it is not risk free. But we have got to get power and resources devolved to the NHS frontline.

What I want to foster is a new culture of public sector enterprise in the NHS to rival the spirit of private sector enterprise. That requires more discretion over how local budgets are spent. It requires fewer directives from the centre. It requires a clearer focus on what is a priority and what is not. And it requires devolution to NHS organisations to be matched by devolution within NHS organisations. Ward sisters to control ward budgets. Matrons to have the power to fine cleaning contractors who fail to keep wards clean. Hospital consultants and other senior clinicians to decide on how new equipment budgets are spent. It requires greater freedoms and more rewards for NHS organisations which succeed. And it requires greater help and more support for those which do not.

Very often the poorest services are in the poorest communities. That cannot be right. So while we will celebrate success, we will encourage innovation, we will incentivise improvement, we cannot stand idly by where there is persistent failure.

Public service reform will be led by public service entrepreneurs. The NHS has bred its own entrepreneurs – people with a track record of transforming local services. I want to give them a bigger stage to apply their talents. That’s why Nigel Crisp was right when he talked yesterday about the best people from inside the NHS having a bigger role in the NHS – not just to turn around the handful of consistently failing organisations but earning greater freedom to make their own organisations even better.

I want to get the best people in the NHS to get the best out of the NHS. Let’s have a bit more confidence in ourselves. We’ve got the best people in the NHS. Reform is already being led from within the NHS. The NHS has the means to improve the NHS. As the awards ceremony put it last night: Together we can.

The people at this conference today are leading change. Now we have to drive it forward: engage with all the staff, work with them, motivate them. Get staff and patients involved in the local modernisation reviews, change how staff work so we can change how the health service works.

Your priority for reform – our priority for reform – is to free the NHS frontline. Not a return to the anarchy of the internal market but a freedom to shape local services in this second term within the clear national framework of standards and accountability we established in our first term. With a reformed Department of Health doing only what it can properly do in an accountable public service. Providing the resources. Setting the standards. Holding the system to account.

I know the Department needs to devolve and decentralise. That is why we have set up an appointments commission so that trust boards are appointed independently and not by ministers. It’s why I have set up an independent reconfiguration panel so that expert managers, clinicians and patients can provide advice to ministers on contested local service changes.

And there is one further aspect to this process of devolution I can announce today. The BMA, the NHS and the Government all want to see a new contract for GPs. Negotiating a new employment contract will not be easy. Negotiations never are. I have come to the view that the process of negotiation will be helped if the NHS rather than a government department or government ministers speak for the employers side of the table. In the end GPs – whether they are independent contractors or salaried employees – work for the NHS. It must be right for the NHS to speak for itself as these negotiations begin. I have therefore asked the NHS Confederation if it would lead the negotiations. The involvement of the NHS Confederation will help ensure that any new contract is both good for GPs and meets the needs of local NHS services and most importantly the needs of local NHS patients. Clearly we need to finalise the details of these arrangements and the NHS Confederation will need to consult on this proposal. But I believe it is the right thing to do and I hope we can get on with it.

Government alone can not change the NHS: real and visible improvement to patient care only happens – is only happening – because NHS staff make it happen. In this second term, NHS staff will be given the power, resources and responsibility to reform the NHS.

There is now a mandate for investment. And there is a mandate for reform. Of course there will always be differences over detail and negotiations over contracts. But I believe there is a natural alliance between NHS staff striving to improve care for patients and the Labour Government striving for sustained investment, far reaching reform and devolution of power to the NHS frontline.

Our commitment – my commitment – is to work with all those who want to see the NHS succeed. It can not be done without you. It can only be done with you.

Alan Milburn – 2001 Speech on Labour’s Second Term

Below is the text of the speech made by Alan Milburn, the then Secretary of State for Health, in June 2001.

It’s good to be back. With a renewed mandate for investment and reform in the NHS and with a very clear instruction from the British people to deliver real improvements within the NHS.

At the General Election there was a clear choice on offer: between putting public services first or putting tax cuts first. The public chose public services.

As you all know Mrs Thatcher featured prominently in the campaign. Ironically, the result of that election campaign has laid to rest the dogma that public sector investment is somehow bad for Britain. That dogma left a legacy of under-investment in our key public services. In transport, in education, above all else in health. The result of the general election is the clearest signal that the country has moved on.

People today recognise that if we are to have a fair society where everyone in our communities- and not just some – get a fair chance to succeed then we must build strong public services to set alongside a strong economy. There can be no such thing as a fair society – or a strong economy – if the education system is geared to success for some but not for all. There is no such thing as a fair society or a strong economy if whole communities are laid waste by the ravages of drugs and crime. Above all else, we cannot have a fair society or a strong economy if health care denies people help when they need it where they need it.

These are the public’s priorities. They are the Government’s priorities for this second term. And at the top of the public’s hopes for change – and top of their concerns too – is the National Health Service.

I have spent the last month, up and down the country, listening to what staff, patients and the public are saying about the NHS. I haven’t always visited the best places. I’ve seen the bad things as well as the good. Sometimes what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard has been encouraging. Sometimes it’s been more difficult. Wherever I’ve gone people have told it straight. And I’ve heard some home truths about what needs to change to realise our ambitions for the NHS.

Wherever I’ve been it’s clear people are impatient for improvement whether they’re NHS patients or NHS staff. So the stakes are high for all of us who believe in the NHS and in its fundamental first principles: care based on need, not ability to pay. A failure to deliver reform in the NHS will play directly into the hands of those who say that the NHS can never deliver.

It is important to recognise that the debate on the NHS has moved on. For years it was all about the need for more investment since for decades the NHS had suffered under-investment. Today we are putting that right. With funding growing at twice the rate of the past the NHS is now the fastest growing health service of any major country in Europe. And because sustained investment will continue throughout this Parliament the debate on the NHS is now very different from what it was just a few years ago. It is now about whether even with this enhanced level of resources the way we organise and fund health care in this country can ever deliver a modern patient-focussed service. And you only have to read the comment sections of some of the daily newspapers to know that waiting in the wings are those who say that the fundamental principles of the NHS cannot work and must be abandoned.

I believe those newspapers are wrong. I believe those politicians on the Right who advocate their cause are wrong. I have a different set of beliefs. I believe in the NHS – in its principles and in the people working in it. And I know that NHS staff can deliver, that they want to deliver – and are already beginning to deliver – the changes needed to redesign the services of the NHS around the people who use them.

We have a long way to go but a start has been made. Today the NHS is in transition. The foundations for change are in place. New structures – ranging from primary care trusts to the Commission for Health Improvement – will help deliver higher standards of care. The extra resources the NHS has long cried out for are finally bringing about expansion in NHS services. 67 new hospitals to be built. 3,000 GP surgeries to be modernised. Thousands of trained staff already in place and thousands more to come. In the next five years alone there will be 10,000 more qualified doctors. And by 2005 we will have increased the number of medical students by 57% – the biggest rise on record and a guarantee of expansion in doctor numbers for a decade or more to come.

Now is the time – with these foundations laid and a clear mandate for deliver – to up the pace of reform. Not because we can promise an overnight transformation but because we know that we need to deliver progress towards that transformation.

I make no apologies for the fact that the NHS Plan is unashamedly long term in its ambitions. There are no quick fixes and no magic wands. We cannot conjure trained doctors and trained nurses out of thin air any more than we can conjure trained scientists or trained therapists out of thin air. Expansion in staff and improvement in services will take sustained time and sustained effort as well as sustained resources. As we manage change we also have to manage public expectations. We have to carefully reconcile the legitimate demands of the public for faster improvement in the NHS with the reality of staff working under real pressure and services straining every sinew to deliver better care for patients.

This is not complacency. We know what needs to be done. And we have the plans and resources for making it happen. We will not pretend that every problem in the NHS can be solved in one fell swoop but nor should anyone pretend that during these next few years we cannot make substantial progress towards our longer term ambitions for the NHS. Our priority for this Parliament is simple: it not an avalanche of new initiatives. It is delivery. To deliver the NHS Plan.

There are four key areas where progress will need to be focussed.

First, on the conditions with the greatest clinical priority – cancer and heart disease and services for the elderly and those with mental illness. These will be our top priorities for investment and reform. Rehabilitation services to build a bridge between the hospital and the home. Prevention and treatment services that improve outcomes and tackle inequalities. By 2005 we will be spending an extra £1 billion a year on cancer and cardiac services alone. Our ambition is to give our country levels of cancer and cardiac care that are no longer behind the rest but up with the best in Europe.

Second, primary care – the point of contact most patients have with the NHS. GPs and other staff are doing a good job under real pressure. That is why our priority has to be to increase the number of GPs as fast as we are able alongside expansion in nursing and other primary care professions too. And it has to be about getting extra investment directly to the frontline in primary care both to improve services for patients and to relieve pressures on staff. Together with the reform programme outlined in the NHS Plan – more specialist GPs, more personal medical services, a new GP contract – this investment will help give patients easier access to primary care services.

Third, emergency care – the point of contact patients most need to know is there for them when they require it. We will invest more in ambulance services, in accident and emergency departments and in expanding NHS Direct. We will also work to integrate these services so that better, faster care is there for patients. Far-reaching reforms and a better division of labour amongst clinical staff will, by 2004, have reduced average waiting times in accident and emergency departments to 75 minutes. Inappropriate trolley waits for admission and assessment will by then have been ended.

Fourth, cutting waiting times. The biggest concern about the NHS today is how long patients wait for treatment. It is frustrating for staff and distressing for patients. So building on what has been achieved to reduce waiting lists in our first term, our focus in this second term will now move on to reducing waiting times for treatment.

Today I can confirm that there will be no waiting list target but there will be a concerted drive to reduce waiting times. Priority will be given to those patients with the most serious conditions. Year by year the maximum waiting times for a hospital operation will fall from 18 months today to 15 months by Spring next year, then to 12 months and by 2005 it will be down to just 6 months. As staff expansion and service reform take hold average waiting times will fall lower still. And the same focus will get waiting times down for outpatient and for ambulance services too.

These are ambitious plans to improve the responsiveness of the NHS. Delivery here will rebuild public confidence in the NHS. It will also solve a real dilemma that confronts thousands of patients every year. Many people – particularly those who have a bit of savings – are currently forced to choose between waiting for treatment or paying for treatment. Many end up paying. However comforting that might be for some people it does not provide a solution for most people. Indeed there is a real risk that without support from middle income families public services will end up fulfilling Richard Titmuss prophecy: services for the poor which are themselves poor services. Our ambition as a country surely has to be to make the NHS a service of first choice not last resort.

We can have that ambition because of the expansion in staffing we are planning. 20,000 more nurses, 10,000 more doctors, 6,500 more therapists and scientists. We can have that ambition because we can deliver not just more staff at the NHS frontline but more support for staff at the frontline. More childcare support. More housing support. A new fairer pay system for staff.

Each year as the NHS grows so services will grow. But as NHS staff know better than anyone, our task is not to get the system to work harder but to get it to work smarter. To have an NHS judged not just by the quantity of services it offers but by the quality of care it provides.

This second term then is all about embedding far reaching reform in all parts of the health service and in social services too. Reform cannot be an optional extra. Investment alone cannot deliver the goods. It is reform that is the key to the improvements that we seek to unlock in the NHS.

Reform to reorganise services from the patient’s point of view – to make same day tests and diagnosis for example the norm and not the exception. Reform to overcome traditional demarcations between staff – to release the talents of nurses and therapists and relieve the pressures on doctors. Reform to break down barriers between services – to get health and social care working as one part of one organisation rather than competing organisations. And reform too which rejects ideological objections to the NHS working with the private sector – as well as rejecting ideological obsessions with the supposed superiority of the private sector – in favour of a modern relationship which best suits the interests of the NHS patient.

In this second term, reform in the NHS is not about abandoning the principles of the NHS. It is not about privatising NHS services. It is not about sidelining NHS staff. It is above all else about empowering frontline NHS services and liberating the talents of frontline NHS staff.

Our reform programme will have as its core purpose an absolute determination to harness the commitment and know-how of staff to improve care for patients. Where staff have been given their heads they have delivered far-reaching change. You can see that in the cancer collaborative programme where joint working between clinicians, managers and patients has already reduced outpatient waiting times by 50% and radiology waiting times by 60%. The collaborative principle and the collaborative process now need to be spread to all parts of the NHS.

I know that for some in the NHS, reform can feel like another burden to be confronted rather than a means of relieving the burden. There is real pressure on staff. It is hard to find the time to reform services. And yet when reform happens it is quickly seen as a help not a hindrance, to staff as well as to patients. GPs who have got waiting times for appointments down by changing how their surgeries are organised have found their working lives better not worse. In hospitals, doctors, nurses and therapists who have changed who delivers outpatient services have found greater job satisfaction not less. What we need now to do is to support more staff through the reform process. That is what giving staff protected time to improve their services is all about. It is what the Modernisation Agency and the Leadership Centre are all about. It is what Individual Learning Accounts for unqualified staff are all about. And in time it is what the new University of the NHS will be all about. All of this is about one thing: to unleash the tide of innovation that exists among staff in every surgery and in every hospital.

With a clear framework of national standards and policies in place from our first term this second term will be all about shifting the centre of gravity to staff at the NHS frontline. The NHS is a high trust organisation. It works on the basis of trust between patient and professional. In the way it is organised the NHS now needs to enshrine that trust. It needs to give more control to the NHS frontline. I don’t treat patients. I don’t provide GP services. I don’t manage NHS hospitals. You do. The NHS can not be run from Whitehall. Just as schools now have greater control so local health services must now be given greater control too.

Four years ago GPs through the fundholding scheme controlled just 15% of NHS resources. Today the GPs, the nurses, the patients and the local communities who run primary care groups and trusts control 50%. By 2004 they will control 75%. By then – if not before – two-thirds of existing health authorities will have been abolished. The NHS regional offices will have been abolished too. Power will have been devolved to frontline NHS services.

And I can announce today that in future resources will be devolved directly to frontline NHS services too. Within the next two years it is my intention to no longer allocate cash for local health services to health authorities. Instead it will be allocated directly to local primary care trusts so that they can decide how to commission services for the local communities they serve. I have heard from too many people too often in the NHS that resources have not been getting through to the frontline. Now I plan to give resources direct to those at the frontline.

This process of decentralisation that will now take hold in all parts of the NHS. I want to see a new culture of public sector enterprise in the NHS to rival the spirit of private sector enterprise which developed during the last few decades in our country. That requires more discretion over how local budgets are spent. It requires greater freedoms and more rewards for organisations which succeed. And it requires greater help and more support – rather than blame – for those which do not.

As standards and performance improve so greater autonomy will take hold. Good hospitals will get extra resources to help turn round persistently failing hospitals. And devolution to NHS organisations will be matched by devolution within NHS organisations. In hospitals ward sisters will have control over ward budgets. Matrons will have the power to fine cleaning contractors that fail to keep wards cleans. Hospital consultants and other senior clinicians will decide on how the new £100 million a year equipment budgets are spent.

The priority for reform will be to free the NHS frontline. Not a return to the anarchy of the market but a freedom to shape local services in this second term within the clear national framework of standards and accountability we established in our first term. With a reformed Department of Health doing only what it can properly do in an accountable public service. Providing the resources. Setting the standards. Holding the system to account.

That process will begin at once and it will provide an opportunity for every member of NHS staff to contribute to the programme of NHS reform. In every part of the country from this month through to the autumn health services will be conducting local modernisation reviews. Just as last summer there was a national programme to involve the NHS in drawing up the NHS Plan so this summer I want to see local programmes throughout the country to involve the NHS in implementing the NHS Plan.

The reviews will culminate in local three year action plans that set out the changes and the investment required to deliver the ambitions of the NHS Plan. These will be local plans for local communities. If they are to launch real change they will need be formulated by local NHS staff and local NHS patients. It will be for local managers to make that happen. But I will be writing to the royal colleges, the trade unions and patient groups urging them to ensure the involvement of their members on the ground.

This is a unique opportunity. For the first time in the history of the NHS staff and patients will be asked to help reshape and reform local health services in all parts of the country. It is a powerful symbol of our determination to put real power and real influence in the hands of those who use NHS frontline services and those who provide them.

Making reform happen will require not just a relocation of power to the NHS frontline but a change in the relationship between patients and frontline services. The culture of the NHS has to change. It has to be attuned to the times in which we all live. Services today have to operate for the benefit of the public, not the other way around. They have to operate on the basis of open information, not behave like a closed society. They have to enhance patient choice not deny it. These are big reforms. They form the basis of the NHS Plan.

In this second term of Government, our concentration will be on embedding the reform programme in the NHS Plan rather than an avalanche of new initiatives which sometimes follows the election of a new government.

Government alone can not change the NHS: real and visible improvement to patient care only happens – is only happening – because NHS staff make it happen. In this second term, NHS staff will be given the power, resources and responsibility to reform the NHS for themselves.

Increasingly, the NHS has a cadre of “public sector entrepreneurs” – committed to the principles of the NHS, driving through local innovation themselves, eager to see reform take hold across the health service. Our task is to engage these “public sector entrepreneurs” against the coalition of “eternal pessimists” – on both Right and Left – who view reform of the NHS as either a threat to the system or as being doomed to failure because the system itself has already been deemed to fail.

These eternal pessimists see every change, in whatever direction as always bad; every extra pound of extra investment as either totally inadequate or pointlessly extravagant. They see every new PFI hospital as a threat of wholesale privatisation rather than as an opportunity for staff and patients to experience new and better NHS facilities.

As we decentralise and devolve more power to the frontline, we have to empower these public sector entrepreneurs to show by example that the NHS can be reformed, that change can be real and visible for patients, that the health service is growing and that it is changing to meet modern patient expectations. By doing so we will prove the eternal pessimists wrong.

There is now a mandate for investment. But there is also a mandate for reform. There can be no veto on either investment of reform. Of course there will always be differences over detail and negotiations over contracts. But I believe there is a natural alliance between NHS staff striving to improve care for patient and the Labour Government striving for sustained investment, far reaching reform and devolution of power to the NHS frontline.

Our commitment – my commitment – is to work with all those who want to see the NHS succeed. With all those who know that it is not just sustained investment that the NHS needs by far-reaching reform.

This is the challenge ahead. It is a challenge we share. It is a challenge we can now meet. It will be most visible and most profound at the NHS frontline.

Alan Milburn – 2001 Speech on Shifting the Balance of Power

Below is the text of the speech made by Alan Milburn, the then Secretary of State for Health, on 25 April 2001.

Today we launch the NHS Modernisation Agency – part of new have been building over last four years. has a key role in helping organisations reform their services to offer patients better, faster care.

I am delighted David Fillingham is to be the Agency’s first Chief Executive. David is an NHS man. He comes with a track record of delivering impressive changes in those NHS organisations he has run. Now he has an even bigger job. One that sounds seductively simple in theory but is fiendishly difficult in practice. How, as Nye Bevan put it five decades ago, to universalise the best; to make best practice in one part of the health service the norm in all of its parts.

This is the challenge for the NHS today. A decade of improvement in the NHS is underway. The Agency is already supporting 30,000 clinicians and managers to make change happen: to raise standards of service and improve access to services. The Agency’s philosophy is simple: there is nothing wrong in the NHS that cannot be rectified by what is right. Realising the ambitions of the NHS Plan needs a modernisation movement which includes all one million NHS staff.

Over the next few years all parts of the NHS must be reformed, redesigned around the needs of patients. Earlier this year I set out in a speech how reform must fundamentally change the relationship between patients and the service. I said then that patients should have more information, more influence and more power over the services they receive. I called for the balance of power in the NHS to shift decisively in favour of the patient.

Today I want to argue this shift can only happen if the centre of gravity within the health service itself moves from Whitehall to the NHS frontline.

The NHS today stands at a crossroads. After decades of neglect the NHS is finally getting the investment it needs.

Between 1979 and 1997 NHS funding grew by an average of just 3% a year. In the last parliament it grew by even less. Funding for buildings and equipment was cut. Nurse training places and GP registrar numbers were both reduced too. In the final year of the last Parliament the overall NHS budget fell in real terms.

I know that some say we got it wrong in the first two years of this Parliament by putting prudence before investment. But the country has reaped a huge reward for it. Economic stability. Public finances under control. And now – precisely because of the choices we made – more investment, over more years, for more of our key public services.

Today the NHS is experiencing historic levels of growth. Double the rate of the past. As a result the NHS is now the fastest growing health service of any major European country. Expansion is underway. 17,000 more nurses; 6,700 more doctor; last year, for the first time in forty years, more beds in hospitals. The biggest hospital building programme the country has ever seen. 220 accident and emergency departments and 1,129 GP surgeries modernised. 500,000 more operations being done. Waiting lists for inpatients and outpatients both now falling.

There is a long way to go. I know that. Investment takes time to be felt at the frontline – but it is getting through and it will be sustained. The truth about the NHS today is that it is neither totally broken nor totally mended. There is real progress. But there are real problems. Staff are under real pressure. After two decades of almost continual chopping and changing it would be odd if there were not signs of change fatigue. There is weariness – and in some parts of the NHS there is wariness. Uncertainty about what reform will bring. Cynicism about whether it can be achieved.

And yet my message is simple: reform must happen. It was never meant to be easy. Reform is difficult. Much of it takes time. And it requires all of us to change. The NHS Plan will take ten years to fully implement but over the next few years reform must take hold. I say that for two reasons.

Firstly, because the NHS is under test. We have actually succeeded in changing one crucial aspect of the debate on the health service. Until recently virtually the only question about the NHS was whether it was getting enough investment. Now most people recognise that the growth in resources is about right. Today the public debate has moved on. It is about whether even with this record investment the health service can deliver the goods for patients.

Some say it can not. That the very way health care is funded and organised in this country makes it impossible to deliver the level or responsiveness of service modern patients expect. They say we have to move away from the core principle of care being provided according to need and not ability to pay. That more people should be charged for care with all of the manifest unfairness that would bring.

So make no mistake: the NHS has to continually earn not complacently assume the confidence of each new generation. Its opponents want it to fail. Reform is the pre-condition for sustaining public confidence in the health service. Reform to make the NHS more responsive to patients is the best answer to its critics.

And reform is the best answer to the pressures facing NHS staff. I know some people working in the NHS believe it would be comforting if we could first expand the service and then make the reforms. Anything else they say is just too hard because staff are facing rising pressures and simply cannot find the time to reform as well.

I appreciate the strain staff face. They do a brilliant job. I know how difficult it can be to find the time to stand back from the service in order to assess how it needs to be changed.

Expansion in staff numbers will help. There are more qualified staff coming through. And more yet to come. But it is not just expansion that will make working lives easier. It is reform too. We have got to stop seeing reform as a new problem. And start seeing it as the solution.

For example, getting hospital test results and diagnosis on the same day make sense from the patient’s point of view. It makes sense from a staff point of view too: less paperwork; fewer missed appointments; and lower levels of frustration about a system which can seem intent on denying both staff and patients the rapid information they need.

The key to reform relies on making better use of staff skills, overcoming traditional demarcations between the professions. Training paramedics to give thrombolytic drugs to heart attack patients will cut call-to-needle times – and save lives. It will relieve the pressures on hospital doctors in accident and emergency. Getting nurses to triage casualty patients has the same impact – and delivers a faster service. In primary care the same is true. There telephone consultations and reorganised practice appointments are delivering shorter waiting times for patients – and making life easier for family doctors.

This is reform in practice. It is happening in many parts of the NHS. The reforms being pioneered in cancer services point the way for the rest of the NHS. The Cancer Collaborative programme has brought together clinicians and managers from across the whole spectrum of services used by cancer patients. Together they have worked to end some of the delays for patients who have been diagnosed with suspected cancer by examining, and then reforming, the patients’ journey through the system.

The results are impressive. On average, in the pilots, times from GP referral to first hospital appointment have been halved. What is more three quarters of the 51 projects in the programme have achieved or beaten the 8 week target from referral to treatment – 4 years ahead of schedule. Radiology waiting times have been reduced by 60%. In total it is estimated that the Cancer Services Collaborative has so far saved a combined total of more than 200 years of patient waiting time. No wonder patients are reporting higher levels of satisfaction with the services they are receiving.

Sure, we have made some extra investment to help it happen. Many of the big changes haven’t cost a penny. They have come from redesigning the way services are delivered. It is reforms like these which will deliver the NHS Plan. So, from this month every part of the country will benefit from this cancer services reform programme. And it is why we are extending the collaborative programme to services such as cardiac care and primary care.

The reform programme in cancer services has delivered because it puts staff in the driving seat of change. Doctors, nurses, scientists and others using their know-how, making their innovations, redesigning their services. Where staff have been in control they have come up with the goods.

The common thread which links the best reforms is the know-how and commitment of NHS staff being harnessed to improve care for patients. The task for the next few years is how to get that thread running through the whole National Health Service.

There is a harsh reality to be faced, not just for the NHS but for the wider public sector in education, local government and transport. Many people – particularly younger people – feel that public services have become ossified. That they are insufficiently responsive to the needs of parents or patients, residents or rail users. In some cases, those with savings or sufficient income have simply opted out of public services altogether. They have chosen private education for their children or private health care for themselves.

However comforting that choice might be for some people it does not provide a solution for most people. Indeed, there is a real risk that without middle class support public services will end up fulfilling Richard Titmuss’ prophecy – services for the poor which are poor services. Our ambition surely has to be to make the NHS – and our country’s other vital public services – a service of first choice, not last resort.

To realise this ambition there have to be radical changes to the way services are provided. There is here, a real conundrum. On the one hand, there are sometimes low levels of public confidence in the ability of services to deliver the standards and responsiveness people expect. And on the other, there remain relatively high levels of public trust in the doctors, nurses, teachers and others providing these services.

In part this reflects a public view that staff in public services have been simply doing their best inside a system that for too long has been under resourced. In the case of the NHS, people think staff are doing a good job despite the system not because of it. By and large people trust frontline public servants. Harnessing the motivation that these frontline staff have to improve public services is essential then for increasing public confidence in those services. In order to be the ambassadors for improved public services frontline staff also have to be the architects of public service reform.

In our first term our focus has been on setting tough new national standards first in health and education and then in local government and transport. Some say that process has gone too far. That creeping centralisation has crowded out local innovation. That staff have felt disempowered or worse disillusioned.

Getting the balance right is never easy. It is worth remembering that when we came to office, in the NHS there was an absence of national standards. No NHS-defined clinical standards and no means of implementing them. No means of spreading good practice or eliminating bad practice. No national evaluation of new treatments and no external inspection of local services. The anarchy of the NHS internal market had merely added to a long term spiral of decline.

It is easy to forget how far we have come in just four years. There are new national standards for services. For cancer, heart disease, mental health, elderly care. There is greater transparency over local service performance. There is a new legal duty of quality and a new system of clinical governance to enshrine improvements throughout the NHS. There is the National Institute for Clinical Excellence evaluating new treatments. For the first time the NHS has an independent inspectorate, the Commission for Health Improvement. There are new systems for when things go wrong and more help to learn from what goes right. The internal market has gone. Through new primary care groups and trusts family doctors and community nurses have a greater say over deciding the shape of local services.

For the first time in decades there is widespread agreement that these changes are right for the NHS. Indeed by and large not even our political opponents disagree with them. This has been a quiet revolution. But a revolution nonetheless. It is early days but the revolution is producing results. The national drive for improved standards is making a difference – whether that’s in cleaner wards or in better cancer care.

And yet what happens in the National Health Service happens in hundreds of hospitals, thousands of GP surgeries and is determined by almost one million staff. Healthcare is a people business – relying on personal interaction and professional judgement. The NHS cannot be run from Whitehall. But it is too simple to say that everything should be devolved from centre to local.

There is little public appetite for diverse standards between local services. People do worry about a lottery in care. When people hear about problems in one part of the NHS it tends to dent public confidence in the whole NHS. There is strong public identification with the NHS as a national service. That is a good thing. The universalism of the NHS helps to cement national cohesion and to shape national identity.

For all these reasons in our first term we have established a clear national framework within which local NHS services can operate. Now with that national framework in place, in our second term we intend to shift the centre of gravity to the NHS frontline.

The NHS is a high trust organisation. It works on the basis of trust between patient and professional. In the way it is organised the NHS needs to enshrine that trust. It needs to give more control to the frontline. Just as schools now have greater control over resources and how they are organised so local health services must now be given greater control.

We have laid the foundations for this approach. When we came to office GP fundholders controlled just 15% of the NHS budget. Today PCGs/PCTs control over 50%. By 2004 I want them to control 75%. The whole idea behind these new organisations was to give the frontline professionals who deal most with patients the power to reform local services. In some places Health Authorities and PCTs have put their relationship on the right footing. The local health authority provides the strategic leadership and the PCTs have the ability to shape local services to suit local community needs.

I want PCTs to be able to commission the services they decide are needed. In some places that is happening but in too many cases it is not. There, Health Authorities have retained control. They have held on to the pursestrings, sometimes even to the content of the purses. Too many family doctors and community nurses have felt disempowered rather than empowered. There are similar feelings in NHS Trusts. Many chief executives I speak to complain of too much day to day intrusion. From health authorities. From regional offices. From the department of health itself. Too much of the NHS today still feels like a centrally run bureaucracy to those at the frontline. This has to change.

The time has now come to free the NHS frontline. Not a return to the anarchy of the market. But a freedom to shape local services within a clear national framework of standards and accountability. That requires a number of major changes. I now want to set out to you how we will implement this approach for the second term.

There will be greater freedom for successful performance. The NHS Plan proposed that local NHS organisations would be graded according to an objective assessment of their performance. As standards and performance improves greater autonomy for local NHS services will be earned. The best performers will have more freedoms.

Today I can set out the forms some of these freedoms will take:

The best performers will have less frequent monitoring from the centre and fewer inspections by the Commission for Health Improvement.

They will be able to develop their own investment programmes without receiving prior approval and they will retain more of the proceeds of local land sales for re-investment in local services.

They will be used as the pilot sites for new initiatives such as team bonuses for staff.

They will receive extra cash for central programmes without having to bid for it.

They will receive extra resources too for taking over and turning round persistently failing Trusts.

And where a successful local health service is receiving less than its fair share of cash through the resource distribution formula it will automatically receive an accelerated uplift to help close the gap.

In all these cases it will be for the local organisation to decide how best to use extra resources whether as bonuses for staff or as investment in services.

I want to make it more worthwhile for local health services to innovate in the way they deliver care to patients. I want to see a new culture of public sector enterprise in the NHS to rival the culture of private sector enterprise which has developed over recent decades. This requires more local discretion over how budgets are spent. It requires a greater emphasis on rewarding those who succeed and helping – rather than penalising – those who sometimes fail. And it requires organisational change to put the frontline first.

The NHS today feels too top heavy to many PCTs and NHS Trusts. In the end it is they who deliver care – and it is they who will deliver reform. The territory above them looks and feels pretty crowded. As well as the Department of Health itself and the NHS Executive centrally there are eight regional offices heavily focussed on performance management and 99 health authorities. Lines of accountability are confused. NHS Trusts running hospitals report to regional offices. PCTs report to health authorities.

Many in the NHS recognise that this intermediate tier of management must now be rationalised. As PCTs develop capacity and take on more powers the role of very local health authorities will be called increasingly into question. Some are already providing an answer. In various parts of the country health authorities are already preparing to merge.

With Nigel Crisp, the NHS Chief Executive, I have examined very carefully which management structures will be needed in the future. Today’s NHS needs an accountability structure to ensure delivery of a national framework of standards in a way that does not stifle local innovation. We have concluded that the current system cannot deliver.

Organisational change of course carries the risk of bringing instability and so could impede reform. But I have been convinced by people in the NHS that change is now needed to take reform forward and embed a new decentralised approach. Not a big bang tomorrow but a phased programme to put power and resources in the hands of the NHS frontline.

I can announce today then far-reaching changes to the way the NHS is organised.

By 2004 two thirds of existing health authorities will have disappeared as they merge. The 30 or so that remain will each cover an average population of 1.5 million, broadly corresponding to emerging clinical networks such as those for cancer services. Local consultation will shape their exact boundaries. Local services for patients will be unaffected by this change. Indeed there will be greater local control over local services as many of the old health authority functions are devolved to locally-run PCTs. They will be the primary point of contact with local government to develop more joint working. More of the planning to improve services and tackle health inequality will also take place at this local level.

In turn, as we prefigured in the NHS Plan, the new strategic health authorities will have responsibility devolved to them from NHS Regional Offices for performance managing the local health care system. Although both NHS Trusts and PCTs will be accountable to the new strategic health authorities both will have greater operational freedom. NHS trusts will be responsible for providing local hospital and other specialist services. PCTs will be responsible for commissioning them as well as providing primary and community services.

Where they wish to PCTs will be able to pool their sovereignty to realise the benefits of larger economies of scale but otherwise the new health authorities will not have hands-on commissioning responsibility. Similarly, health authorities will be able to come together at a regional level to discharge functions that make more sense at that level.

Following the establishment of the new health authorities, there will be a Regional Director for Health and Social Care with a small core group of staff – part of the Department of Health – there not to second guess local health services but with oversight of their development. The areas covered by these regional directors may be larger than at present. Otherwise the NHS Executive and, over time, the Regional Offices will disappear.

Their residual functions – for example over public health – will be overseen by the Regional Director, accountable to the Department of Health but co-located with Government Offices of the Regions, to encourage more joint working between health, transport, regeneration and the environment. In this way if new regional government structures emerge there will be a ready-made relationship with the NHS.

The new strategic health authorities will be the bridge between the Department of Health and local NHS services. They will have an absolutely crucial role to play in brokering solutions to local problems, holding local health services to account and encouraging greater autonomy for NHS Trusts and PCTs.

They will need to be well run, highly efficient organisations attracting some of the best management. So I can say today that I am examining proposals for ensuring this happens including inviting expressions of interest from the best performing management teams to run the strategic health authority “franchise”.

This new flatter NHS structure will help liberate local services so they can get on with the business of reform. It will also free over

£100 million from bureaucracy for investment in frontline services.

That brings me then to the final major change I wish to make to give frontline services more freedom. Devolution to frontline NHS organisations must be matched by devolution within frontline NHS organisations. As the Cancer Service Collaborative programme has already proved successful reform depends on giving clinicians as well as managers the power to reshape services. That means stopping clinicians – nurses as well as doctors – feeling that reform is a process that is done to them rather a process that they control. I know the whole ethos of the Modernisation Agency will be about change being done with people rather than to them.

At a national level we have worked hard to involve clinicians in the work of the department, in the formulation of new standards and in drawing up the NHS Plan. The same process of engagement must now happen in every local NHS organisation. During the summer I will be asking every local health service to carry out a local modernisation review of what needs to be done to deliver the NHS Plan. Managers will need to work with clinicians across the primary, secondary, social services divide to identify the local obstacles standing in the way of progress and how best these can be overcome.

That process may give rise to new structures. In cancer care, for example, the country’s best cancer networks are already applying to take direct control of local budgets for services. In time I believe we can put the country’s top cancer specialists in charge of new funding for all cancer patients. Other local innovations to put frontline staff in charge of services will be encouraged too.

Health authorities as they divest themselves of direct management responsibility for services should pass cash down to local primary care groups and trusts. Hospitals should consider how to give clinical teams greater control over budgets. We have made a start here by giving each ward sister control of a

£5,000 ward budget and by bringing back matrons to exercise control over cleaning and other basic services. Within the next fortnight I will set out how I intend to take this process further by giving hospital clinicians control over extra resources for new equipment budgets.

In the meantime, we will provide further help for staff to reform services. Staff who work day-in, day-out under great pressure often know there could be better ways of delivering treatment and care. Lack of staff time can be the biggest barrier to reform.

We will include a total of £60 million in local NHS budgets over the next 3 years to allow frontline staff some protected time to look at how they can improve the quality of patient care. The first 20 pilot sites are already up and running.

I want these staff modernisation sessions to become common practice throughout the NHS – just as INSET days have in education. Together with the work of the new Leadership Centre, headed by Barbara Harris, these sessions will give clinicians, working alongside managers, the tools to reform local patient services.

Frankly it should never have needed Ministers to tell hospitals that informed consent, clean wards and good food are basic requirements in a modern NHS. It is a salutory lesson for those who complain about too much central intervention that it was only this process which focussed attention on getting some of the fundamentals of care right for patients.

Change needs to come from the bottom up not just the top down. I am confident that the reforms now taking hold throughout the NHS are putting a new focus on designing services around the needs of patients. This will leave the centre to do the job it should properly do. Provide the resources. Set the standards. Hold the system to account.

Nigel has launched a review of the department to better focus on its core tasks. The review has involved consultation with the NHS and external stakeholders. Just like the rest of Whitehall, the Department faces a fundamental challenge: how to overhaul its apparatus to be better focussed on seeing change through, not just devising policies for change.

Over the next few years the job of the department has to be a single-minded focus on implementing the NHS Plan and the related reform programme for social care and public health. Amongst other changes, this is likely to require more frontline staff being recruited to work in the Department to build on the success of the “tsars”. In this way, the Department of Health can become a model for the modern service-delivery Whitehall department.

There will be democratic accountability – as there should be in a National Health Service – but operational control will be devolved outwards and downwards to the NHS frontline.

To save the NHS we had to a get a grip: to put national standards in place where they were absent; to put resources in place where they had been denied; to develop a programme of sustained reform alongside a programme of sustained investment.

With this national framework in place, the time has come to liberate the NHS frontline.

To expand staff numbers and to value staff more.

To encourage their innovation which will reform the health service.

To foster their initiative on which better patient care can be built.

To realise the immense potential of our million, brilliant staff.

And above all else, now to shift the balance of power from Whitehall to the NHS frontline.

This approach is a huge vote of confidence in the doctors, nurses, managers who run frontline services.

Alan Milburn – 2001 Speech at the Institute of Human Genetics

Below is the text of the speech made by Alan Milburn in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 19 April 2001.

It is a real pleasure to be with you today both to celebrate the achievements of the Northern Genetics Service and to welcome the new Institute of Human Genetics. You already provide services that are renowned nationally as well as regionally. Now thanks to all your efforts and the investments going in you will be able to provide world class genetic services for patients.

Hardly a week goes by without a new media story about genetics. Some of the advances we read about no doubt are more apparent than real. But one thing is for certain: genetics will, indeed already is changing the world in which we live – holding out the potential for new drugs and therapies, new means of preventing ill health and new ways of treating illness.

And yet, despite the profound potential inherent in the new technologies, it is a rare for any health secretary to speak about genetics. In part this reticence reflects uncertainty about the impact genetic advances will have on health care. In part it reflects unease about the ethical implications of some of these great steps forward. We have to get to grips with both.

In the process, we should not lose sight of what I am convinced are enormously exciting developments for human health. Late last year I convened a seminar on genetics in the Department of Health. Patient groups, doctors, leading scientists, the pharmaceutical industry and some of our country’s top geneticists attended. I learned a lot about both the potential and the problems associated with developments in genetics. What I heard convinced me that it is time for politicians and the public as well as scientists and clinicians to engage with the issue.

Any responsible government has a duty to assess the future challenges facing the country. Our horizon must be beyond the short term. We need now to be looking a decade or more ahead so we can ensure Britain is in the best position to benefit from the changes that will surely come.

Whether Britain prepares for it or not, advances in genetics will inevitably impact on health services and health prospects. The challenge for us is how best to ensure the impact is as positive as it will be profound; that it benefits all of our society, not just some of it.

I am no expert on genetics. I am a politician not a scientist. So what I want to say is less about the science of genetics – and more about the impact it can have.

I want to set out:

– what the Government believes could be the potential of genetics for improved health.

– the way we need now to be actively preparing the NHS so it can harness the benefits of these future advances for all the people of our country.

And a new ambition for Britain – to put us at the leading edge of advances in genetic technologies and to develop in our country modern genetic health services unrivalled anywhere in the world.
We have before us a huge potential. A gift that modern science has bequeathed medicine and society. The breakthroughs initiated by Francis Crick and Jim Watson five decades ago and taken forward by teams of scientists throughout the world in the human genome project have given us not only new knowledge about life itself but the potential power to improve life.

The human genome project has already crossed a new frontier in scientific knowledge – the question now is whether we can harness that knowledge to cross a new frontier in medicine.

The implications of the advances in genetic knowledge are enormous – equal potentially for the conquest of disease to the discovery of antibiotics. This is a revolution, with the potential in the first half of this century to dwarf the impact computer technology had on society in the second half of the last century.

In time we should be able to assess the risk an individual has of developing disease – not just for single gene disorders like cystic fibrosis but for our country’s biggest killers – cancer and coronary heart disease – as well as those like diabetes which limit people’s lives.

We will be able to better predict the likelihood of an individual responding to a particular course of drug treatment. And down the line, we will be able to develop new therapies which hold out the prospect not just of treating disease but of preventing it.

Of course it is a complex business turning new knowledge into new treatment. For one thing, the relationship between gene and environment is currently insufficiently understood. So no-one can predict right now the scale of the impact of genetics on health care, any more than we can predict its timing. There are no guarantees. It is worth remembering: people of my generation grew up being told that by now we would be certain there would be men on Mars – either because we’d gone there or they’d got here first.

What makes advances in genetic medicine different is they are already happening. Some genetic tests are currently available. Many more are within reach. There are promising signs from pioneering gene therapy treatments. Some new drugs are already being designed for specific groups in the population who can benefit most. Indeed, most experts agree the biggest advance we are likely to see in genetics in the near future lies in the discovery of hundreds of new, better targeted drug treatments.

There is no “Big Bang”. Instead, we are at the start of a “slow burn” which can only accelerate in the future. Our job is to prepare for change to harness the benefits of genetic advances and avoid its dangers. To do that we need to secure public approval for progress and to actively prepare our health care system for that progress. I now want to deal with each of these issues in turn.

First then, the views of the British public. Most of us in this room can already see the potential for healing which genetics may bring. Yet the subject evokes strong public scepticism, sometimes even hostility.

A MORI survey just last month showed that while 9 in 10 people agreed genetic developments could have positive health benefits, one third worried that research on human genetics amounts to tampering with nature. The creation of Dolly the sheep and false claims about the cloning of humans have understandably exacerbated these fears.

Little wonder then, that there remains some confusion in the public mind about where the science of genetics ends and the nightmare of eugenics begins. The pre-condition for dispelling some of the myths and ending much of the confusion is better engagement between the medical and scientific communities and society as a whole. Government and the media share a responsibility to help foster a well-informed, national debate about the promise and the problems genetic discoveries hold out for our country in the years to come.

Many of the advances we are likely to see in genetics over the next decade will probably come in areas which are the least likely to raise profound moral concerns – such as pharmaco-genetics.

But in a climate where the benefits of scientific advance are not always as automatically accepted as once they were, we need to move beyond simply stimulating a national debate about genetics. It is unfortunate but true that BSE and other developments have inflicted real damage on the standing of science. In some spheres there is the risk of an anti-science view taking hold. To protect against that prospect we need to move beyond simply providing more information or better education to the public about the potential of genetics. We have to provide positive safeguards to address the public’s concerns.

The terrible lesson of history is that science can be claimed for evil as well as for good. So whilst science must be able to discover the facts, Governments – on behalf of the public – must be able to make judgements about the use to which those discoveries can legitimately be put.

Advances in genetics raise difficult ethical questions. Most people, I guess, would accept as a good thing genetic testing for susceptibility to heart disease in order to be better able to prevent it. The same positive view would probably apply if we were able to tailor drugs to treat a particular individual for serious illness or if we could cure cancer by altering the make-up of a particular gene. Conversely, the prospect of genetically designing babies for their looks or for their intelligence is, for most people, repellent.

At present in this country, human reproductive cloning is banned because the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority will not licence it. The ban is welcome.

But I believe we need to go further to offer an unequivocal assurance to the public. Human cloning should be banned by law, not just by licence. I can confirm today then that the Government will legislate in the near future to explicitly ban human reproductive cloning in the UK.

There are huge potential health gains in genetic advances but until we address and allay public concerns we will not gain public consent to realise the full benefits of genetic science.

We have made a start with the Human Genetics Commission to provide independent advice on the social, ethical and legal implications. There are understandable public concerns that the advent of genetic testing will lead to new forms of discrimination – in employment or insurance for example. The extent to which the public accept, demand or avoid genetic screening services in the future will depend in part on who will have access to genetic information. There are important issues of confidentiality to be addressed. The Commission is currently exploring some of them, most notably in regard to insurance. We have also set up the Genetics and Insurance Committee to review the evidence about individual tests. The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee recently reported on the same issue. It called for a temporary moratorium on using genetic tests for insurance purposes to give time for the wider implications to be explored.

The question of whether insurance companies should have access to genetic information has provoked much public concern. There are powerful arguments for not treating genetic information the same as other kinds of information for insurance purposes. Right now the relevance of many genetic test results is still poorly understood. Many tests can only indicate an individual has a predisposition to develop a condition not a certainty that they will. Even so forced disclosure of test results could deter some people from taking tests at all, potentially putting their health at risk for fear of suffering discrimination by insurance companies or even by employers. In the longer term the danger we need to guard against is the creation of a ‘genetic underclass’, where high risk individuals are excluded altogether.

These are complex issues and it is for these reasons that the Government has asked the Human Genetics Commission to review the wider social and ethical aspects of the current policy on the use of genetic test results for insurance. We await their report and recommendations. Clearly the report is likely to give rise to a number of long term issues that will need careful consideration.

What I can say today is that the Government will look sympathetically at any proposals to prevent the inappropriate use of genetic information for insurance purposes, including legislation if necessary. If the Human Genetics Commission recommends a temporary moratorium on the use of genetic tests by the insurance industry then we will pursue it.

There will need to be safeguards to protect individuals from families affected by genetic conditions such as Huntingdon’s disease. I will therefore consult with genetic support groups and the insurance industry to examine what can be done to improve matters for those whose family history makes insurance difficult.

As the debate on insurance and genetics is revealing, genetic advances require new thought to be given to regulation nationally and internationally. In truth, scientific advance has outstripped the existing regulatory response. Without appropriate regulation, lack of public confidence will remain a significant barrier to fully harnessing the health benefits genetic developments represent.

Genetic advances can be a force for good. But that requires more than just public confidence. It requires active preparation. The genetics revolution has begun. It will only move forward faster in the future. It is time we as a nation started preparing today for the opportunities of tomorrow. Let me now set out then the preparations I believe the NHS must now make.

Whether it is genetic testing or pharmacogenetics or, in time, developments in gene therapy, the genetics revolution is going to make the NHS of the future look very different from the health service of today.

Developments in genetics should allow us to eradicate much of the trial and error common in medical practice. Much of the health service’s work today is based on a model which aims to ‘diagnose and treat’ conditions. Modern medicine has made great strides forward. But much of it still only comes into play relatively late in the history of an illness. Developments in genetics should allow us to test or screen for risk factors long before the symptoms of disease develop. The NHS of the future should increasingly allow us to ‘predict and prevent’ the common diseases of later life.

Genetics will never mean a disease-free existence; but understanding of genetics could eventually help to free society from some of today’s major diseases. The plans my department are currently discussing with the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council for one of the world’s largest studies – involving 500,000 volunteers – into the interaction between genes and environment will give us further vital clues.

To realise the potential genetic advances could have, however, the NHS will need to change the services it offers. Hospitals might do less invasive surgery but more gene therapy treatment. Overall the NHS will need to gear itself increasingly to prevention and not just treatment. In primary care where the majority of patients will be seen, the pattern of care will alter, as new services take the place of existing ones: more genetic screening alongside more specialist genetic counselling; more regular check-ups; more help for people to give up smoking not just advice that they should; more exercise on prescription alongside drugs on prescription, tailored to the individual’s personal genetic profile.

Patients, of course, must be able to choose how best they as individuals can benefit from these genetic advances. People have a right to know and a right not to know information about their own health. For genetic tests, the rate of take-up will inevitably depend on factors such as family health history and the possibility of treatment. There will be huge dilemmas for the individual patient – as women who are at high risk from breast cancer have already found after deciding whether or not to have a genetic test. But overall, I believe genetic developments should give patients more control and more choice over their own health.

The role of health professionals will be to help patients choose what is right for them. There will be a greater emphasis on providing clear information to patients so they can make informed choices. Informed consent should be the governing principle here, with a greater sense of partnership between professional and patient.

Genetic services will spread out of specialist centres into GP surgeries, health centres and local hospitals as I know you are now doing here in the North East. A new generation of specialist primary care professionals are likely to develop to work alongside family doctors – and help relieve the burden on them – by specialising in genetic testing, advice and counselling. Mainstreaming genetic services in the NHS will also require big changes in how we educate and train health professionals.

There is then a lot of preparation to do. Day-by-day we are seeing advances which could offer more patients the benefits of genetic services. Today for example, I am able to announce agreement between my department and the Cancer Research Campaign for the use of their world class research to support testing for the presence of breast cancer genes. The CRC has held a patent on the detection of one of the breast cancer genes for some time. Such a patent could have made it prohibitively expensive for the NHS to test women for this gene if the CRC had used their patent powers to impose a charge. The agreement we have reached with the CRC ensures that women will not face this problem – so incidentally giving the lie to the claim that some have made that genetic patenting inevitably will land the NHS with unaffordable costs. I can also say today that discussions are underway with a leading United States-based biotechnology company, Myriad Genetics Inc, to enable NHS patients to benefit from the company’s extensive research and development on a related breast cancer gene. I hope these discussions will be a model for future collaborations with our health service.

These advances, however, inevitably place great strain on NHS genetic services. I want to pay tribute not only to the work that John and his team do here in Newcastle but to the work of our regional genetic services up and down the country. You already provide vital – sometimes life-saving services for thousands of people with single gene disorders. You are at the sharp end of the genetics revolution – a revolution with the potential to transform health care in our country but which must not be allowed to overwhelm it.

Here in Britain we start with a great advantage. Despite the very real pressures our genetic services are under, they are the envy of Europe. A recent study in the European Journal of Genetics concludes that the UK and the Netherlands provide our continent’s most comprehensive genetic services.

According to the Nuffield Trust no other country in the World provides a service which offers combined strengths in clinical, laboratory and research activities. When it comes to genetic services it is no exaggeration to say the NHS is a world leader. Now it is time to enhance the capacity of our genetic services so they are better able to capture advances in genetic medicine for many more NHS patients.

Today I can announce a £30 million package of new investment in NHS genetic services.

Firstly, the government will increase the number of consultants specialising in genetics. The NHS is in the midst of major expansion, after decades of neglect and under-investment. Already there are than 17,000 nurses and 6,500 more doctors than when we came to office. The next few years will see further expansion still. Genetic services will be a major beneficiary. Consultants numbers will double from 77 today to over 140 by 2006.

Secondly, we will also double the number of scientific and technical staff working in genetics over the next five years to provide the specialist laboratory skills needed to maximise benefits to patients. Staff numbers will rise by 300.

Thirdly, we will more than double the number of genetic counsellors working in the NHS not only in specialist units but in primary care as well. There will be at least an extra 150 posts and we will work closely with Macmillan Cancer Relief to develop more specialist genetic cancer counsellors.

Fourthly, we will create two new national reference laboratories for genetics specialising in rare genetic disorders and identifying new tests and treatments that can bring benefits to patients.

Fifthly, we will address the lottery in care in genetics services. As the Bobrow report recommended, we will now, for the first time, form our regional genetics services into a single national network capable of providing specialist services to groups of patients regardless of where they happen to live. The creation of a Genetics Commissioning Advisory Group involving patient representatives under the chairmanship of Sir John Pattison will also ensure greater national co-ordination of genetic services.

More consultants, more scientists, more counsellors, new laboratories and a new national network of specialist genetics centres – a five point plan for expansion in genetic services – will allow the NHS to offer greatly enhanced treatment and care for patients.

The number of NHS patients being seen by specialist genetics services will increase by 80% to 120,000 a year over the course of the next few years. More NHS patients with common conditions like cancer as well as those with single gene disorders will be offered tests. Regional centres will be able to routinely see the family members of patients so they also have the information and the tests necessary to make decisions about their own future treatment needs.

Waiting times to see a genetics specialist will fall from as long as twelve months at present to just three months in future. Laboratory test times too will fall and test numbers will double by 2005.

This is the first tranche of investment we will be making to ensure the NHS is able to offer patients the benefits of the latest genetics advances. Further investment will be needed in education and training for staff and in IT systems as well as in new equipment. I know that in this region funding for genetic services will expand by one quarter over the next three years alone. The investment we are making is not just a signal of our belief that these advances hold out real health care benefits, it is confirmation of our belief that the NHS is uniquely placed to maximise those benefits for all.

Some argue that the costs of absorbing these advances will swamp the NHS. That is not my view. Of course there will be up front costs if the NHS is to spread the benefits of genetic developments. But, down the line, there could be significant financial gains to put alongside major health gains. For example, using genetic profiling to more accurately prescribe drugs will reduce side-effects, improve treatment outcomes and save the NHS a small fortune. Advances in pharmacogenetics could reduce the estimated 1 in 20 of hospital admissions which result from adverse drug reactions and currently cost the NHS anywhere between £1billion and £2.5 billion a year. Similarly, once we are able to identify say, the 10% of people most at risk from heart disease we will be able to provide them with extra preventive services. One estimate puts the costs of doing so at around £60 million with the savings at around £200 million.

There is no other health care system better placed to harness the potential of the great advances now within reach than the National Health Service. The way the NHS is organised – providing care for all on the basis of need, not ability to pay – uniquely suits it to capturing the benefits of genetics for the good of all.

Our nation’s health service is our best defence against the nightmare vision of a ‘Brave New World’ of two tier health care: a “genetic superclass” of the well and insurable; and a “genetic underclass” of the unwell and uninsurable, unable to pay the premiums for medical care.

Britain’s system of socialised health care means citizens can choose to take genetic tests free from the fear that should they test positive they face an enormous bill for insurance or treatment. Worse still that they are priced out of care or cover altogether. Already in America developments in genetics have stirred precisely these concerns.

Genetic advances lay bare the fallacy that private health insurance is the way forward for our country. Genetics strengthens, rather than weakens the case for Britain’s NHS.

We in this country have good reason to be confident of being able to harness the benefits of genetic advance for all our citizens, rather than just a privileged few: the NHS, funded by all and there for all; genetic services, already among the best in the world, and now to be enhanced; and on top of this international strengths in science, education and industry.

We have in this country some of the best scientists, academics and universities anywhere in the world. The Government’s Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust were responsible for a major funding contribution to the human genome project. Over half of all European gene therapy clinical research now takes place in Britain. The UK is home to world beating pharmaceutical companies. Our biotechnology industries have more drugs in late stage clinical trials than the rest of Europe put together. And – with the sole exception of the USA – growth in investment in pharmaceutical research and development outstrips the rest of the World.

The Government wants to see British science leading the World so there is growing investment from the public purse too. Tax reforms – including new incentives for research and development – will help entrench further investment still. Already the science budget is receiving unprecedented increases. The Research Councils are now spending £600 million a year on biotechnology and medical R&D. Spending on genomics is set to rise by at least £60 million a year.

These are huge advantages for our country. If properly harnessed we can reap a double benefit: prosperity for our country’s economy and progress for our country’s health. We can now go on to pool these advantages to realise the economic and health gains genetic developments could bring.

The NHS Plan we published last summer set out our intention to establish a number of genetic knowledge parks. Today I want to tell you what they will look like and how they will work.

The knowledge parks will bring together on a single site clinicians, scientists, academics and industrial researchers. They will be centres of clinical and scientific excellence seeking to improve the diagnosis, treatment and counselling of patients. Research will help create successful spin out companies specialising in genetic technologies. Developing research and industrial clusters of this sort has already produced enormous gains in the IT sector both in this country and abroad. Where we have seen the development of a silicon valley in the past we can now develop a genetics valley in the future. Indeed with the UK’s academic, industrial and clinical strength we should aim to have more than one of them. Nor should these knowledge parks be a cold scientific or clinical environment. As here at the Centre for Life, I want them to have an open educational ethos engaging in information and debate with the public about both the science and ethics of genetics.

In the last few months we have had preliminary discussions with a number of potential partners to develop the first genetics knowledge parks. The Economic and Social Research Council is interested in a joint venture on the personal, social and ethical issues. We are discussing a joint investment with the Medical Research Council on bioinformatics. One of the UK’s major pharmaceutical companies has agreed in principle to collaborate on a genetics park. A number of universities are keen to participate too.

Stephen Byers, the Secretary of State for Trade & Industry, is working with me to ensure the new parks contribute to the government’s regional economic policy agenda. I want some of the genetic knowledge parks to strengthen the economies of regions which traditionally have had lower levels of research and development, lower indigenous company formation and fewer industries of the future.

There is enormous potential here. We need to act quickly if the UK is to maximise the comparative advantage we currently enjoy against growing global competition. I can therefore announce today, in addition to the £30 million for the NHS, a new £10 million fund – the Genetics Knowledge Challenge Fund – to establish up to four knowledge parks in England over the next few years.

Some of the new Genetics Knowledge Parks may be based in existing centres. Others will be new centres altogether. In the near future I will be inviting bids from universities, regional development agencies, NHS Trusts and private sector firms who have formed collaborative ventures to develop proposals for genetics knowledge parks. I expect to give the go-ahead to the first tranche of genetics knowledge parks before the end of the year.

What I believe is now needed is a major national effort to put Britain at the leading edge of new genetics services and new genetic technologies. We should be cashing in on the dominance we as a country currently enjoy. But that can only happen if we prepare for change and if we ensure that the public have confidence in those changes.

I have tried today to set out how I think we can take the genetics agenda forward in terms of public safeguards, service enhancements, economic developments.

As with any new science we are in uncharted territory. The response of some is to turn their back on genetic advances. To say that the implications are too big or too difficult to contemplate. To leave it to chance, to others, or to the whim of the market. I believe that would be a profound mistake for Britain.

The developments we are seeing have the capacity to bring so much good to so many people. But I recognise there is much to do if that latent potential is to be realised. I have touched on some of the crucial issues today. I do not pretend to have covered all the questions, let alone given all the answers. More work and more consideration, more public information and debate is necessary.

So I can announce today that next year, we will publish a Government Green Paper on genetics – the first of its kind. It will examine in depth the ethical, clinical, scientific and economic issues. It will build on the work undertaken by government, parliamentary committees, the Human Genetics Commission, research councils, charities and others.

There are many points of view on genetics. I want the Green Paper to be a focus for them – and to be informed by a spectrum of views and interests including patient groups, the wider community, the NHS, science and the pharmaceutical industries. I am therefore establishing an advisory panel made up of representatives from these interests to look at some of the issues the Green Paper will need to cover. The panel will be led by Lord Turnberg, the former President of the Royal College of Physicians, who has, I am delighted to say, agreed to chair it.

I believe the Green Paper will help stimulate a real national debate on the future benefits of genetics for our country. But the new frontier of genetic science and medicine recognises no boundaries between regions or nations: the clinical and ethical issues which genetic discoveries raise will be global. Britain has to maintain and enhance its position as a leading world player in the development and application of genetic technologies.

And so, as part of the preparation of the Genetics Green Paper, Britain is to host an International Conference on Genetic Medicine bringing together the world’s leading experts, to provide a global perspective on these issues.

Genetics presents a new frontier for the future of medicine and health care. The NHS should face that future with confidence. I believe Britain’s health service is in a stronger position to secure the benefits of the genetics revolution for our people than any private alternative. Better able to establish the trust of its people. Better equipped to translate scientific discovery into clinical success. Better positioned to exploit the potential of genetic testing for all our population rather than see genetic testing leading to exploitation of some in our population.

If the NHS prepares for it – as we are determined it shall – the genetics revolution will make the case for a health service based on clinical need and not ability to pay. The values of the NHS will be invaluable as the full scope of this new science reveals itself. That is why I say today, properly prepared, the development of genetic medicine will make, not break the NHS.

Our task is to prepare the NHS properly. To set boundaries beyond which science will not go but, as we have with stem cell research, to break down barriers to get the best for patients. To involve the public and invest the public finances in new technologies and new treatments which can help to improve the National Health Service and our nation’s health prospects. Above all, our task now is to determine how best we can harness the potential of genetics for the benefit of all our people and for all parts of our country.

This is the challenge of genetics. It provides an enormous opportunity for our country.

Hardly a week goes by without a new media story about genetics. Some of the advances we read about no doubt are more apparent than real. But one thing is for certain: genetics will, indeed already is changing the world in which we live – holding out the potential for new drugs and therapies, new means of preventing ill health and new ways of treating illness.

And yet, despite the profound potential inherent in the new technologies, it is a rare for any health secretary to speak about genetics. In part this reticence reflects uncertainty about the impact genetic advances will have on health care. In part it reflects unease about the ethical implications of some of these great steps forward. We have to get to grips with both.

In the process, we should not lose sight of what I am convinced are enormously exciting developments for human health. Late last year I convened a seminar on genetics in the Department of Health. Patient groups, doctors, leading scientists, the pharmaceutical industry and some of our country’s top geneticists attended. I learned a lot about both the potential and the problems associated with developments in genetics. What I heard convinced me that it is time for politicians and the public as well as scientists and clinicians to engage with the issue.

Any responsible government has a duty to assess the future challenges facing the country. Our horizon must be beyond the short term. We need now to be looking a decade or more ahead so we can ensure Britain is in the best position to benefit from the changes that will surely come.

Whether Britain prepares for it or not, advances in genetics will inevitably impact on health services and health prospects. The challenge for us is how best to ensure the impact is as positive as it will be profound; that it benefits all of our society, not just some of it.

I am no expert on genetics. I am a politician not a scientist. So what I want to say is less about the science of genetics – and more about the impact it can have.

I want to set out:

– what the Government believes could be the potential of genetics for improved health.

– the way we need now to be actively preparing the NHS so it can harness the benefits of these future advances for all the people of our country.

And a new ambition for Britain – to put us at the leading edge of advances in genetic technologies and to develop in our country modern genetic health services unrivalled anywhere in the world.
We have before us a huge potential. A gift that modern science has bequeathed medicine and society. The breakthroughs initiated by Francis Crick and Jim Watson five decades ago and taken forward by teams of scientists throughout the world in the human genome project have given us not only new knowledge about life itself but the potential power to improve life.

The human genome project has already crossed a new frontier in scientific knowledge – the question now is whether we can harness that knowledge to cross a new frontier in medicine.

The implications of the advances in genetic knowledge are enormous – equal potentially for the conquest of disease to the discovery of antibiotics. This is a revolution, with the potential in the first half of this century to dwarf the impact computer technology had on society in the second half of the last century.

In time we should be able to assess the risk an individual has of developing disease – not just for single gene disorders like cystic fibrosis but for our country’s biggest killers – cancer and coronary heart disease – as well as those like diabetes which limit people’s lives.

We will be able to better predict the likelihood of an individual responding to a particular course of drug treatment. And down the line, we will be able to develop new therapies which hold out the prospect not just of treating disease but of preventing it.

Of course it is a complex business turning new knowledge into new treatment. For one thing, the relationship between gene and environment is currently insufficiently understood. So no-one can predict right now the scale of the impact of genetics on health care, any more than we can predict its timing. There are no guarantees. It is worth remembering: people of my generation grew up being told that by now we would be certain there would be men on Mars – either because we’d gone there or they’d got here first.

What makes advances in genetic medicine different is they are already happening. Some genetic tests are currently available. Many more are within reach. There are promising signs from pioneering gene therapy treatments. Some new drugs are already being designed for specific groups in the population who can benefit most. Indeed, most experts agree the biggest advance we are likely to see in genetics in the near future lies in the discovery of hundreds of new, better targeted drug treatments.

There is no “Big Bang”. Instead, we are at the start of a “slow burn” which can only accelerate in the future. Our job is to prepare for change to harness the benefits of genetic advances and avoid its dangers. To do that we need to secure public approval for progress and to actively prepare our health care system for that progress. I now want to deal with each of these issues in turn.

First then, the views of the British public. Most of us in this room can already see the potential for healing which genetics may bring. Yet the subject evokes strong public scepticism, sometimes even hostility.

A MORI survey just last month showed that while 9 in 10 people agreed genetic developments could have positive health benefits, one third worried that research on human genetics amounts to tampering with nature. The creation of Dolly the sheep and false claims about the cloning of humans have understandably exacerbated these fears.

Little wonder then, that there remains some confusion in the public mind about where the science of genetics ends and the nightmare of eugenics begins. The pre-condition for dispelling some of the myths and ending much of the confusion is better engagement between the medical and scientific communities and society as a whole. Government and the media share a responsibility to help foster a well-informed, national debate about the promise and the problems genetic discoveries hold out for our country in the years to come.

Many of the advances we are likely to see in genetics over the next decade will probably come in areas which are the least likely to raise profound moral concerns – such as pharmaco-genetics.

But in a climate where the benefits of scientific advance are not always as automatically accepted as once they were, we need to move beyond simply stimulating a national debate about genetics. It is unfortunate but true that BSE and other developments have inflicted real damage on the standing of science. In some spheres there is the risk of an anti-science view taking hold. To protect against that prospect we need to move beyond simply providing more information or better education to the public about the potential of genetics. We have to provide positive safeguards to address the public’s concerns.

The terrible lesson of history is that science can be claimed for evil as well as for good. So whilst science must be able to discover the facts, Governments – on behalf of the public – must be able to make judgements about the use to which those discoveries can legitimately be put.

Advances in genetics raise difficult ethical questions. Most people, I guess, would accept as a good thing genetic testing for susceptibility to heart disease in order to be better able to prevent it. The same positive view would probably apply if we were able to tailor drugs to treat a particular individual for serious illness or if we could cure cancer by altering the make-up of a particular gene. Conversely, the prospect of genetically designing babies for their looks or for their intelligence is, for most people, repellent.

At present in this country, human reproductive cloning is banned because the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority will not licence it. The ban is welcome.

But I believe we need to go further to offer an unequivocal assurance to the public. Human cloning should be banned by law, not just by licence. I can confirm today then that the Government will legislate in the near future to explicitly ban human reproductive cloning in the UK.

There are huge potential health gains in genetic advances but until we address and allay public concerns we will not gain public consent to realise the full benefits of genetic science.

We have made a start with the Human Genetics Commission to provide independent advice on the social, ethical and legal implications. There are understandable public concerns that the advent of genetic testing will lead to new forms of discrimination – in employment or insurance for example. The extent to which the public accept, demand or avoid genetic screening services in the future will depend in part on who will have access to genetic information. There are important issues of confidentiality to be addressed. The Commission is currently exploring some of them, most notably in regard to insurance. We have also set up the Genetics and Insurance Committee to review the evidence about individual tests. The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee recently reported on the same issue. It called for a temporary moratorium on using genetic tests for insurance purposes to give time for the wider implications to be explored.

The question of whether insurance companies should have access to genetic information has provoked much public concern. There are powerful arguments for not treating genetic information the same as other kinds of information for insurance purposes. Right now the relevance of many genetic test results is still poorly understood. Many tests can only indicate an individual has a predisposition to develop a condition not a certainty that they will. Even so forced disclosure of test results could deter some people from taking tests at all, potentially putting their health at risk for fear of suffering discrimination by insurance companies or even by employers. In the longer term the danger we need to guard against is the creation of a ‘genetic underclass’, where high risk individuals are excluded altogether.

These are complex issues and it is for these reasons that the Government has asked the Human Genetics Commission to review the wider social and ethical aspects of the current policy on the use of genetic test results for insurance. We await their report and recommendations. Clearly the report is likely to give rise to a number of long term issues that will need careful consideration.

What I can say today is that the Government will look sympathetically at any proposals to prevent the inappropriate use of genetic information for insurance purposes, including legislation if necessary. If the Human Genetics Commission recommends a temporary moratorium on the use of genetic tests by the insurance industry then we will pursue it.

There will need to be safeguards to protect individuals from families affected by genetic conditions such as Huntingdon’s disease. I will therefore consult with genetic support groups and the insurance industry to examine what can be done to improve matters for those whose family history makes insurance difficult.

As the debate on insurance and genetics is revealing, genetic advances require new thought to be given to regulation nationally and internationally. In truth, scientific advance has outstripped the existing regulatory response. Without appropriate regulation, lack of public confidence will remain a significant barrier to fully harnessing the health benefits genetic developments represent.

Genetic advances can be a force for good. But that requires more than just public confidence. It requires active preparation. The genetics revolution has begun. It will only move forward faster in the future. It is time we as a nation started preparing today for the opportunities of tomorrow. Let me now set out then the preparations I believe the NHS must now make.

Whether it is genetic testing or pharmacogenetics or, in time, developments in gene therapy, the genetics revolution is going to make the NHS of the future look very different from the health service of today.

Developments in genetics should allow us to eradicate much of the trial and error common in medical practice. Much of the health service’s work today is based on a model which aims to ‘diagnose and treat’ conditions. Modern medicine has made great strides forward. But much of it still only comes into play relatively late in the history of an illness. Developments in genetics should allow us to test or screen for risk factors long before the symptoms of disease develop. The NHS of the future should increasingly allow us to ‘predict and prevent’ the common diseases of later life.

Genetics will never mean a disease-free existence; but understanding of genetics could eventually help to free society from some of today’s major diseases. The plans my department are currently discussing with the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council for one of the world’s largest studies – involving 500,000 volunteers – into the interaction between genes and environment will give us further vital clues.

To realise the potential genetic advances could have, however, the NHS will need to change the services it offers. Hospitals might do less invasive surgery but more gene therapy treatment. Overall the NHS will need to gear itself increasingly to prevention and not just treatment. In primary care where the majority of patients will be seen, the pattern of care will alter, as new services take the place of existing ones: more genetic screening alongside more specialist genetic counselling; more regular check-ups; more help for people to give up smoking not just advice that they should; more exercise on prescription alongside drugs on prescription, tailored to the individual’s personal genetic profile.

Patients, of course, must be able to choose how best they as individuals can benefit from these genetic advances. People have a right to know and a right not to know information about their own health. For genetic tests, the rate of take-up will inevitably depend on factors such as family health history and the possibility of treatment. There will be huge dilemmas for the individual patient – as women who are at high risk from breast cancer have already found after deciding whether or not to have a genetic test. But overall, I believe genetic developments should give patients more control and more choice over their own health.

The role of health professionals will be to help patients choose what is right for them. There will be a greater emphasis on providing clear information to patients so they can make informed choices. Informed consent should be the governing principle here, with a greater sense of partnership between professional and patient.

Genetic services will spread out of specialist centres into GP surgeries, health centres and local hospitals as I know you are now doing here in the North East. A new generation of specialist primary care professionals are likely to develop to work alongside family doctors – and help relieve the burden on them – by specialising in genetic testing, advice and counselling. Mainstreaming genetic services in the NHS will also require big changes in how we educate and train health professionals.

There is then a lot of preparation to do. Day-by-day we are seeing advances which could offer more patients the benefits of genetic services. Today for example, I am able to announce agreement between my department and the Cancer Research Campaign for the use of their world class research to support testing for the presence of breast cancer genes. The CRC has held a patent on the detection of one of the breast cancer genes for some time. Such a patent could have made it prohibitively expensive for the NHS to test women for this gene if the CRC had used their patent powers to impose a charge. The agreement we have reached with the CRC ensures that women will not face this problem – so incidentally giving the lie to the claim that some have made that genetic patenting inevitably will land the NHS with unaffordable costs. I can also say today that discussions are underway with a leading United States-based biotechnology company, Myriad Genetics Inc, to enable NHS patients to benefit from the company’s extensive research and development on a related breast cancer gene. I hope these discussions will be a model for future collaborations with our health service.

These advances, however, inevitably place great strain on NHS genetic services. I want to pay tribute not only to the work that John and his team do here in Newcastle but to the work of our regional genetic services up and down the country. You already provide vital – sometimes life-saving services for thousands of people with single gene disorders. You are at the sharp end of the genetics revolution – a revolution with the potential to transform health care in our country but which must not be allowed to overwhelm it.

Here in Britain we start with a great advantage. Despite the very real pressures our genetic services are under, they are the envy of Europe. A recent study in the European Journal of Genetics concludes that the UK and the Netherlands provide our continent’s most comprehensive genetic services.

According to the Nuffield Trust no other country in the World provides a service which offers combined strengths in clinical, laboratory and research activities. When it comes to genetic services it is no exaggeration to say the NHS is a world leader. Now it is time to enhance the capacity of our genetic services so they are better able to capture advances in genetic medicine for many more NHS patients.

Today I can announce a £30 million package of new investment in NHS genetic services.

Firstly, the government will increase the number of consultants specialising in genetics. The NHS is in the midst of major expansion, after decades of neglect and under-investment. Already there are than 17,000 nurses and 6,500 more doctors than when we came to office. The next few years will see further expansion still. Genetic services will be a major beneficiary. Consultants numbers will double from 77 today to over 140 by 2006.

Secondly, we will also double the number of scientific and technical staff working in genetics over the next five years to provide the specialist laboratory skills needed to maximise benefits to patients. Staff numbers will rise by 300.

Thirdly, we will more than double the number of genetic counsellors working in the NHS not only in specialist units but in primary care as well. There will be at least an extra 150 posts and we will work closely with Macmillan Cancer Relief to develop more specialist genetic cancer counsellors.

Fourthly, we will create two new national reference laboratories for genetics specialising in rare genetic disorders and identifying new tests and treatments that can bring benefits to patients.

Fifthly, we will address the lottery in care in genetics services. As the Bobrow report recommended, we will now, for the first time, form our regional genetics services into a single national network capable of providing specialist services to groups of patients regardless of where they happen to live. The creation of a Genetics Commissioning Advisory Group involving patient representatives under the chairmanship of Sir John Pattison will also ensure greater national co-ordination of genetic services.

More consultants, more scientists, more counsellors, new laboratories and a new national network of specialist genetics centres – a five point plan for expansion in genetic services – will allow the NHS to offer greatly enhanced treatment and care for patients.

The number of NHS patients being seen by specialist genetics services will increase by 80% to 120,000 a year over the course of the next few years. More NHS patients with common conditions like cancer as well as those with single gene disorders will be offered tests. Regional centres will be able to routinely see the family members of patients so they also have the information and the tests necessary to make decisions about their own future treatment needs.

Waiting times to see a genetics specialist will fall from as long as twelve months at present to just three months in future. Laboratory test times too will fall and test numbers will double by 2005.

This is the first tranche of investment we will be making to ensure the NHS is able to offer patients the benefits of the latest genetics advances. Further investment will be needed in education and training for staff and in IT systems as well as in new equipment. I know that in this region funding for genetic services will expand by one quarter over the next three years alone. The investment we are making is not just a signal of our belief that these advances hold out real health care benefits, it is confirmation of our belief that the NHS is uniquely placed to maximise those benefits for all.

Some argue that the costs of absorbing these advances will swamp the NHS. That is not my view. Of course there will be up front costs if the NHS is to spread the benefits of genetic developments. But, down the line, there could be significant financial gains to put alongside major health gains. For example, using genetic profiling to more accurately prescribe drugs will reduce side-effects, improve treatment outcomes and save the NHS a small fortune. Advances in pharmacogenetics could reduce the estimated 1 in 20 of hospital admissions which result from adverse drug reactions and currently cost the NHS anywhere between £1billion and £2.5 billion a year. Similarly, once we are able to identify say, the 10% of people most at risk from heart disease we will be able to provide them with extra preventive services. One estimate puts the costs of doing so at around £60 million with the savings at around £200 million.

There is no other health care system better placed to harness the potential of the great advances now within reach than the National Health Service. The way the NHS is organised – providing care for all on the basis of need, not ability to pay – uniquely suits it to capturing the benefits of genetics for the good of all.

Our nation’s health service is our best defence against the nightmare vision of a ‘Brave New World’ of two tier health care: a “genetic superclass” of the well and insurable; and a “genetic underclass” of the unwell and uninsurable, unable to pay the premiums for medical care.

Britain’s system of socialised health care means citizens can choose to take genetic tests free from the fear that should they test positive they face an enormous bill for insurance or treatment. Worse still that they are priced out of care or cover altogether. Already in America developments in genetics have stirred precisely these concerns.

Genetic advances lay bare the fallacy that private health insurance is the way forward for our country. Genetics strengthens, rather than weakens the case for Britain’s NHS.

We in this country have good reason to be confident of being able to harness the benefits of genetic advance for all our citizens, rather than just a privileged few: the NHS, funded by all and there for all; genetic services, already among the best in the world, and now to be enhanced; and on top of this international strengths in science, education and industry.

We have in this country some of the best scientists, academics and universities anywhere in the world. The Government’s Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust were responsible for a major funding contribution to the human genome project. Over half of all European gene therapy clinical research now takes place in Britain. The UK is home to world beating pharmaceutical companies. Our biotechnology industries have more drugs in late stage clinical trials than the rest of Europe put together. And – with the sole exception of the USA – growth in investment in pharmaceutical research and development outstrips the rest of the World.

The Government wants to see British science leading the World so there is growing investment from the public purse too. Tax reforms – including new incentives for research and development – will help entrench further investment still. Already the science budget is receiving unprecedented increases. The Research Councils are now spending £600 million a year on biotechnology and medical R&D. Spending on genomics is set to rise by at least £60 million a year.

These are huge advantages for our country. If properly harnessed we can reap a double benefit: prosperity for our country’s economy and progress for our country’s health. We can now go on to pool these advantages to realise the economic and health gains genetic developments could bring.

The NHS Plan we published last summer set out our intention to establish a number of genetic knowledge parks. Today I want to tell you what they will look like and how they will work.

The knowledge parks will bring together on a single site clinicians, scientists, academics and industrial researchers. They will be centres of clinical and scientific excellence seeking to improve the diagnosis, treatment and counselling of patients. Research will help create successful spin out companies specialising in genetic technologies. Developing research and industrial clusters of this sort has already produced enormous gains in the IT sector both in this country and abroad. Where we have seen the development of a silicon valley in the past we can now develop a genetics valley in the future. Indeed with the UK’s academic, industrial and clinical strength we should aim to have more than one of them. Nor should these knowledge parks be a cold scientific or clinical environment. As here at the Centre for Life, I want them to have an open educational ethos engaging in information and debate with the public about both the science and ethics of genetics.

In the last few months we have had preliminary discussions with a number of potential partners to develop the first genetics knowledge parks. The Economic and Social Research Council is interested in a joint venture on the personal, social and ethical issues. We are discussing a joint investment with the Medical Research Council on bioinformatics. One of the UK’s major pharmaceutical companies has agreed in principle to collaborate on a genetics park. A number of universities are keen to participate too.

Stephen Byers, the Secretary of State for Trade & Industry, is working with me to ensure the new parks contribute to the government’s regional economic policy agenda. I want some of the genetic knowledge parks to strengthen the economies of regions which traditionally have had lower levels of research and development, lower indigenous company formation and fewer industries of the future.

There is enormous potential here. We need to act quickly if the UK is to maximise the comparative advantage we currently enjoy against growing global competition. I can therefore announce today, in addition to the £30 million for the NHS, a new £10 million fund – the Genetics Knowledge Challenge Fund – to establish up to four knowledge parks in England over the next few years.

Some of the new Genetics Knowledge Parks may be based in existing centres. Others will be new centres altogether. In the near future I will be inviting bids from universities, regional development agencies, NHS Trusts and private sector firms who have formed collaborative ventures to develop proposals for genetics knowledge parks. I expect to give the go-ahead to the first tranche of genetics knowledge parks before the end of the year.

What I believe is now needed is a major national effort to put Britain at the leading edge of new genetics services and new genetic technologies. We should be cashing in on the dominance we as a country currently enjoy. But that can only happen if we prepare for change and if we ensure that the public have confidence in those changes.

I have tried today to set out how I think we can take the genetics agenda forward in terms of public safeguards, service enhancements, economic developments.

As with any new science we are in uncharted territory. The response of some is to turn their back on genetic advances. To say that the implications are too big or too difficult to contemplate. To leave it to chance, to others, or to the whim of the market. I believe that would be a profound mistake for Britain.

The developments we are seeing have the capacity to bring so much good to so many people. But I recognise there is much to do if that latent potential is to be realised. I have touched on some of the crucial issues today. I do not pretend to have covered all the questions, let alone given all the answers. More work and more consideration, more public information and debate is necessary.

So I can announce today that next year, we will publish a Government Green Paper on genetics – the first of its kind. It will examine in depth the ethical, clinical, scientific and economic issues. It will build on the work undertaken by government, parliamentary committees, the Human Genetics Commission, research councils, charities and others.

There are many points of view on genetics. I want the Green Paper to be a focus for them – and to be informed by a spectrum of views and interests including patient groups, the wider community, the NHS, science and the pharmaceutical industries. I am therefore establishing an advisory panel made up of representatives from these interests to look at some of the issues the Green Paper will need to cover. The panel will be led by Lord Turnberg, the former President of the Royal College of Physicians, who has, I am delighted to say, agreed to chair it.

I believe the Green Paper will help stimulate a real national debate on the future benefits of genetics for our country. But the new frontier of genetic science and medicine recognises no boundaries between regions or nations: the clinical and ethical issues which genetic discoveries raise will be global. Britain has to maintain and enhance its position as a leading world player in the development and application of genetic technologies.

And so, as part of the preparation of the Genetics Green Paper, Britain is to host an International Conference on Genetic Medicine bringing together the world’s leading experts, to provide a global perspective on these issues.

Genetics presents a new frontier for the future of medicine and health care. The NHS should face that future with confidence. I believe Britain’s health service is in a stronger position to secure the benefits of the genetics revolution for our people than any private alternative. Better able to establish the trust of its people. Better equipped to translate scientific discovery into clinical success. Better positioned to exploit the potential of genetic testing for all our population rather than see genetic testing leading to exploitation of some in our population.

If the NHS prepares for it – as we are determined it shall – the genetics revolution will make the case for a health service based on clinical need and not ability to pay. The values of the NHS will be invaluable as the full scope of this new science reveals itself. That is why I say today, properly prepared, the development of genetic medicine will make, not break the NHS.

Our task is to prepare the NHS properly. To set boundaries beyond which science will not go but, as we have with stem cell research, to break down barriers to get the best for patients. To involve the public and invest the public finances in new technologies and new treatments which can help to improve the National Health Service and our nation’s health prospects. Above all, our task now is to determine how best we can harness the potential of genetics for the benefit of all our people and for all parts of our country.

This is the challenge of genetics. It provides an enormous opportunity for our country.